Uncommon Ground

Grandma’s Medicine

Washington is stuck fanning culture-war fires and won’t address things that matter like the real cost of life-saving medicine

By Mike Jopek

Daytimes are getting longer again as we speed into another new year, putting 2021, hopefully gently, to bed. It proved a tough year for locals, one full of pandemic struggles across the Flathead and Montana.

Winter is here and the snow feels good. The lake behind the farm froze and people are fishing, skiing, and recreating in the cold. It’s a great time of year.

The farm woodstove is on and we’ve settled into our wintertime routines of plowing snow, hauling firewood, getting outdoors, and planning for the new growing season which starts shockingly soon. I’m very hopeful about 2022. As any farmer, we bet on that season’s crop.

We’re in a phase of our lives where we enjoy eighty-something parents. We’re grateful that all five of them are doing decent given how difficult life is for many older Americans during this pandemic.

Three parents live in the Flathead where there’s great healthcare and courteous professionals helping with the timeless medical needs facing older Montanans. We’re indebted to the good care offered. 

I’ve been trying to pay attention to the medicine that is prescribed to our parents. It’s confusing. So many pills, always evolving, and increasingly difficult to affordably source given vastly differing polices, deductibles and outlets.

Some of the medicine my parents take are the same ones my in-laws are prescribed. Though the out-of-pocket costs are wildly different. But one constant remains. Everyone pays, and plenty. Like crazy amounts for a retiree. 

One parent pays zero for a medicine while the other pays a couple hundred monthly for the same life-saving drug. I don’t get it; it makes little sense and will probably change come the new year.

A medicine my dad takes retails for about $900 per month. His expensive maritime insurance says it’s not covered under the drug plan he pays hundreds in monthly premiums. It’s a different tier they say. Sounds bad, I said. They say they’ve negotiated a deal with a pharmacy so the medicine now only cost $500 monthly. 

That’s a $5,000 annual savings. He’s still out $6,000 a year. That’s just one of the nearly dozen medicines parents currently take daily. Every elderly person seems to have a full medicine cabinet.

I talked with his good maritime insurance for a while to no avail. I looked up the medicine on the manufacture’s website and shockingly they offer an easy form to fill out that makes the medicine available for $10 per month for the year. I know. Weird right?

Help your non-tech-savvy parents find their medicine coupons, even as they seemingly can use a computer tablet. America set up a health delivery system where the least computer literate elders need the most access to medicine. Pandemic vaccinations clearly articulated this nonsense as kids helped parents schedule online appointments. 

As I chased medicine for parents, I was reminded how nearly 20 years ago former Gov. Brian Schweitzer rocked the nation by chartering busses to drive elderly Montanans across the Canadian border so locals could afford to fill prescriptions.

Our parents cannot change the system. They pay with their sparse retirements to keep maintaining a quality of life. The people in charge of government, the congresspeople, either don’t know or don’t care about the daily cost associated with old age. Most of us find their lack of attention to the greatest generation nauseating.

It was our parents’ generation that fought wars, that built our national infrastructure, and paid for us to live the quality of lives we enjoy. 

It’s easy to see why America is losing faith. Washington is stuck fanning culture-war fires and won’t address things that matter like the real cost of life-saving medicine. Next year do better politicians. Try harder. Do right. Grandma depends on you.

Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.

Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.