Weekend Diversion: The Beetis and Pharmacies

Rather than a real song this week, I instead point you to an internet classic, inspired by those Wilford Brimley commercials you see during The Price is Right. Yes, I watch The Price is Right when I can, and hence I know all about important products like Fibercon, the Scooter Store, Depends, and, of course, Liberty Medical. This video is one of the most bizarre things I've ever seen, and no, I never really noticed how oddly this man pronounces the word diabetes. There is a reason why some now call it "the beetis" in honor of him.

But on a slightly more serious note, even if you have health insurance, medications can be very expensive. What's worse, is unlike the purchase of most goods, medications are not sold -- with many insurance carriers -- in a straightforward manner.

Let me give you a personal example, and hopefully, it will give you a useful lesson to learn. (The drugs and dollar values have been changed to protect certain people.) I have insomnia. I have a hard time falling asleep and staying asleep at night, and after a lot of behavioral and diet changes, my doctor suggested trying a variety of drugs to see if any of them helped. Let's take the generic treatment: Trazodone, which is also often used as a mild antidepressant.

Trazodone has variable doses, between 0.5 and 3 pills a day.

Here's the weird thing about many insurance companies: you don't pay per pill, you pay per month. That's right, the amount of pills you take are not the determining factor in the cost to you of your medicine. If I told my doctor I was taking half-a-pill a day, and he prescribed me a 1-month supply, I pay $10 for 15 pills. For a 3-month supply, I pay $30 for 45 pills.

But if I told my doctor I was taking three pills a day, and he prescribed me a 1-month supply, I still pay $10, but this time, I get 90 pills. This may just be my healthcare coverage (with Kaiser), but it is not a rarity. If I'm honest about things, and say I need 90 pills of my medicine when I'm actually only taking half-a-pill a day, it will cost me six times as much as if I say I'm taking three pills a day.

Now, this is for the generic medicine. If I'm taking a premium medicine, like Lunesta, I pay $40 for a month of pills. And again, you pay per month, not per pill. I'm not a fan of gaming the system like this, but when the system is set up to be unfair in principle, all bets are off.

And so I hope you find this information to be useful, and -- depending on how your insurance works -- will remember to ask your doctor to write you the maximum prescription for the allowable monthly dose. And check with your doctor/pharmacy for specials involving ongoing medication; oftentimes deals are available where you can get three-months-for-the-price-of-two through the mail.

You know, while you rock out to the Beetis.

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The health insurance industry has been broken for a long time now.

Not one person is treated by the health insurance industry. It is all a numbers game.

My latest complaint:

I just switched from one major health insurance company to another after my premiums were raised from $1100/month to $1600/month by the previous insurer (two people insured). Being self employed means paying all of the premiums.

I am a heart patient and take 7 medications. My doctor prescribes for a year, 90 days at a time, which means I need to renew medications 4 times a year times 7 meds. The new insurance company decided that I can only get 60 days at a time, so now I must renew 6 times per year times 7 or up to 14 more trips to the pharmacy. Complete lunacy. Do they expect me to possibly get better so I don't waste medications?

By NewEnglandBob (not verified) on 16 May 2009 #permalink

It's not just one Abeetis! It's two, two, TWO for the price of one! Now introducing DI Abeetis!(*)

(*) Limited offer only. Terms and conditions may apply. Not available where prohibited.

"If I'm honest about things, and say I need 90 pills of my medicine when I'm actually only taking half-a-pill a day, it will cost me six times as much as if I say I'm taking three pills a day."

I think that came out backwards. In any case, I'm glad I live in Britain, where it's still done by-prescription (though not by-length, so doctors can tweak the amount given as appropriate), but universal healthcare makes the cost fairly trivial anyway.

By Adam Cuerden (not verified) on 17 May 2009 #permalink

No, he got that right. He's comparing needing 90 pills and being honest and taking 1/2 pill a day, it will cost more than if he says he needs 3 a day so he could get more pills at one time.

I have never encountered this particular problem with healthcare. I know people have problems, and it is expensive, but I have never had any problem with a claim (and I have had three surgeries, broken bone, anti-biotics, etc...), now with auto insurance companies, i have had denied claims and other problems.

So, I don't know how a medical insurance company can stay profitable, I pay about $250 a month for me and my family(through work) and I have racked up more expenses over my lifetime than I have ever paid in, again with cars, I have paid insurance since 16 and have only made claims for the occasional broken windhsield.

The one you posted is my favorite Liberty Mutual ad remix on YouTube; there are 3 or 4 more really good ones.

Being autistic, I also have trouble falling asleep. 6 mg melatonin two hours before bed, then a tiny bit of cannabis just before bed. Works great.

By Otto J Hunt (not verified) on 20 Oct 2010 #permalink

Is it a good thing or a bad thing? You can supply for three months paying just for one, but then again...not everybody thinks like you.The idea of just suppling can turn into addiction. I'm guessing the drug treatment isn't too harsh or demanding but still.

By RiverCharlotte (not verified) on 14 Nov 2010 #permalink