I wrote a bunch of letters to federal, state, and local officials about my not being able to afford Abilify on a long-term basis and the ramifications of that reality for me. I’ve received various unhelpful and insulting replies, but this response I received from the Human Resources Administration of The City of New York is completely inane since I state in every letter that I am middle income and don’t quality for any government assistance, pharma-funded programs, or any sort of prescription subsidies except my Walgreens Rx discount card:
“Your correspondence to the Honorable Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been referred to the Medical Insurance and Community Services Administration (MISCA) for a response. We here at MISCA are deeply moved by your story and sympathize with your situation. That is why it gives me a great deal of satisfaction to inform you of our program, the New York State Medicaid Program.”
I also saw my psychiatrist this week. He said I should be a mental healthcare consultant because I know every angle, every resource, every bargain, every discount, and every scam that exists to get quality healthcare and medication. But who the hell with any dough is going to hire ME to tell other folks how to beat the system? Plus, I’m all about helping the sisters and brothers out. I don’t want to make/take money to help my people. Please, if you need advice or help, feel free to contact me and I’ll try to help in whatever way I can. My email is on the “About” page.
On a related note, I received a call Thursday morning from a blocked number from a guy who said he was from the Bristol-Myers Squibb Patient Assistance Foundation. I had to call him back — I was on the way to a press conference for work. When I returned his call, I reached his voicemail at an outsourced company that describes itself as “Reimbursement consulting and services practice for pharmaceutical and biotech companies.
The outsourced dude called me back yesterday and we had a conversation in which I mostly listened and remained silent while this grown man in a senior position at this outsourced company very nervously discussed with me the “different possibilities” he was thinking about to try to help me obtain Abilify at no cost. I publish this here as an example about what happens — or doesn’t happen– when one makes a bit of noise. And also to document my efforts to help myself and the government and corporate responses to “the people” they represent and the customers they serve.
Here are my notes from yesterday’s conversation:
Outsourced Man: Can you give me a round number of your annual household income?
Stephanie Schroeder: $60,000
OM: Well, that’s above the income threshold for a family of two.
SS: Yeah, like WAY ABOVE the threshold, which I see is $38,775…
OM: ………[hemming and hawing]……Well, is that your income before taxes?
OM: Well, we like to look at adjusted gross income, do you happen to know that number?
SS: Yes: $52,325
OM: Wow, well……………..that is, uhm, still, uhm………………One thing we may be able to do — not to get your hopes up — is to know how much you’ve spent out of pocket on your other prescriptions this year. Do you have any idea that much that is?
SS: Less than a thousand dollars, probably not even $500, my other medication is pretty reasonably priced.
OM: Well, we may be able to make an exception…..uhm…I’m just thinking though our options…………..Maybe your partner’s prescription costs can be included….
SS: She pays $2 each for her scripts so that wouldn’t really even figure in. But, I pay my psychiatrist and psychotherapist out of pocket, too. Would records of that help?
OM: [Very Excitedly]: Yes! Let me do this Miss Schroeder: You’ve given me a fair amount of information, and I see from our database that you’ve applied for our program several times in the past several years………….
SS: Yes, I’ve received assistance twice when I was unemployed and totally broke, and I keep applying because I don’t have insurance or ready cash to pay for Abilify.
OM: ….you fall into that category…. of being uninsured, but making a little too much money to qualify for the program outright….
SS: I don’t know how you calculate your monetary thresholds, but I live in New York City and it’s pretty expensive here, like, uhm, everything here is expensive.
OM: …. let’s see if we can look at an exception…taking into consideration where you are living, New York, and out of pocket prescription and other medical expenses…. we’ve gone through some changes since you last applied…blah blah blah…consolidated…blah blah blah…………uhm, the way I would like to proceed is have you download and fill out the application and have your prescribing doctor fill out his portion and send it with your tax return and printout from your pharmacy. And, any bills you have from your doctor and therapist would also be very helpful to submit. …..I can make a case that, Miss Schroder doesn’t meet out criteria outright, but we can demonstrate………uhm…….see if we can make an exception because you are uninsured and have out of pocket medical expenses.
SS: Okay, so what do I need to do?
OM: Fax the application to the number of the first page…actually the fax is on every page.
SS: To your attention?
OM: You can just fax it, or you can mail it to the PO Box in Charlotte
SS: Should I direct it to your attention?
OM: Sure, you can put it to my attention. I’m going to add some notes from our conversation today, in addition notes from your prior applications because we have a place for you in our database. [He said this very odd thing very enthusiastically and with a tenor as though I live in a database and am not a real person in real-time.]
If you wan to give me a call…..to let me know you’ve sent the application…………..I will talk to my counselor here who is helping me to take care of it quickly to see if an exception is possible. It’s not easy…..we will do everything we can. I’ll be your advocate here and we will make the best decision for all considered.
SS: Okay, thank you.