It is not a shock that I was laid-off due to Covid-19. I am one among thousands who were. This lay-off, though, has led to an interesting learning experience about medical insurance and medication. This will be a two-part blog series as there is a side story that I will twist with humor concerning GoodRx.
I have spoken at great length about my extensive history with mental illness (yes, Stephanie, we know already!). I have been on various medications throughout these last 22 years (I didn’t start meds until I was 18). After two decades, my body said nope, not anymore to the antidepressant, Lexapro. This drug worked so well until it didn’t. I was not sad to see it go. Since I was put on every known SSRI*, my psychiatrist recommended switching to an SNRI*.
So here I am, newly unemployed and feeling highly depressed, inadequate, and self-loathing. I have a telehealth session with my psychiatrist the beginning of May. She sends my scripts to Express Scripts, the online pharmacy that I was using with my now former job. I’m thinking that things will go as normal as the company paid for two months of COBRA*.
Boy was I wrong!
I thought it very funny that I never received a text that the drugs shipped. Of course, because I am now over 40, I did not recognize this until a week and a half later. I am filling my pill container and gasped when I realized I was in dire need of my SNRI, the generic version of Cymbalta. I was beginning to run low on my 100mg lamotrigine as well. The latter helps me with the cyclical nature of my depression (I do not have bipolar disorder, I lack the mania aspect).
“Shit! Shit! Shit!”
Anyone who has ever been on an antidepressant knows that it is really bad to go off of them cold turkey. Depression symptoms can quickly elevate and worsen. You are also at a higher risk of suicide. Now you understand my profanity.
I quickly log on to Express Scripts to see where these prescriptions that my psychiatrist ordered two weeks ago are. What do I see for each and every one of them? CANCELED. Um, what?! I am now panicking. I only have a week left of the Cymbalta. This is not good.
I call Express Scripts.
The nice lady on the phone tells me that she sees the five prescriptions as canceled but cannot tell me why. I explain to her my dire situation. She is of no help. She notices I have a refill left on the lamotrigine 100mg and says she can put that through but because that script technically expired she has to notify my doctor. I explain to her that I really need the Cymbalta more, that I was laid-off, and only have insurance through mid-June. She checks my account and says, it is showing me you have no insurance coverage.
What?! Wait, did I miss something in the awfully confusing COBRA paperwork?! Of course, I did. One needs a lawyer to fully decipher that thing.
I hang up with this ‘delightful’ lady as she works diligently contacting my doctor’s office to fill the expired refill. This is the 3rd full week in May (take note of this date, it is necessary for the end of this post). I need to also mention that my psychiatrist is now out on maternity leave (ugh, I see Murphy’s Law is in play).
As if talking with Express Scripts wasn’t enough, I now decided to contact COBRA. A different ‘delightful’ woman looks into my file and tells me, wait for it, you never elected coverage. You are not insured. What?! The letter I received from my now-defunct job said I was covered for two months! I am so confused and rapidly falling into an anxiety spiral. I am trying to explain this to her and we ultimately go back and forth between “You are not insured. You needed to elect to be covered” and “But my job sent me a letter saying I was insured.” Ultimately, I lost the battle.
Okay, Stephanie, let’s regroup. You are not insured. Your psychiatrist is out on maternity leave. All of your Express Scripts prescriptions have been canceled. And, most importantly, you now have five days left on your antidepressant. FUCK!
I quickly call the doctor’s office and explain to the receptionist what happened. Her voice tells me she isn’t quite convinced of my story. I’m gathering her first instinct is that I am a patient dying to get my hands on some good ‘stuff’. Yes, that is definitely it… Cymbalta, Gabapentin, Lamotrigine, and Trazodone. Those are definitely drugs I can get high off of and sell on the street for some mad dough (note sarcasm, none of them are). I am on the verge of tears about the Cymbalta. She informs me that she will have another doctor send it in. I have her send it to a local grocery store pharmacy where it is cheaper. Remember, not employed, GoodRx to the rescue (or are they?)!
I will avoid telling my twisted tale concerning GoodRx until my next blog post. We will just say that all my prescriptions were filled on time. I now have at home over 120 pills of Trazodone, Lamitrigene 25mg, and Gabapentin. My prescriptions are for 90 days. The pharmacist doesn’t even bother putting my Cymbalta tabs in another bottle. I receive the original bottle the pharmacist received. I am a at around 100 pills for the Lamitrigene 100mg.
So I am well stocked for the next few months.
Then, my husband finally adds my daughter and me to his insurance. I meet with my psychiatrist over the internet once again at the end of July. She already has my new insurance. She automatically sends my prescriptions into CVS. I hadn’t realized she had done this until I received a text from CVS letting me know my prescriptions are ready. I go to the CVS I think they were called in to pick them up. Nope, not that one. They were put into the one near my former employment. Because I know myself, I knew that passing by would be very emotionally triggering for me. I went online and had them mail them to me for free.
So if you are doing the math right, here are the current totals (remember two months have gone by):
- Cymbalta: Around 120 capsules
- Lamotrigine 100mg: Around 120 tablets
- Lamotrigine 25mg: About 320 tablets (I take 2/day and had plenty to start)
- Trazodone: Around 120 tablets
- Gabapentin: Around 120 capsules
Too many, right?! Well, remember when I told you to keep the 3rd week in May in mind? The time the ‘delightful’ lady from Express Scripts was going to contact my doctor to fill the expired prescription? Yeah, I almost didn’t either.
Guess what showed up last week… that prescription. Only 3 months late! Add another 90 tablets of Lamotrigine 100mg to my list.
I can now put CVS out of business!
*SSRI is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor which increases the amount of serotonin your brain produces. To note, serotonin is mass-produced in your gut but this serotonin does not travel into the brain.
*SNRI is a serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor. As you probably has guess this class of drug not only increases your brain serotonin levels but also your norepinephrine levels. Both help you to feel happy.
*COBRA is a confusing and expensive way to continue your health benefits after you have been let-go or fired. Really, don’t use it unless you really need to, and then there are still cheaper options out there.