So There’s This Conversation With My Pharmacist….

s.e. smith

Why is it that every time I try to refill my prescription for birth control I have to engage in the same 40 minutes of wrangling with my pharmacist?

This article is reprinted with permission from FWD/Forward, Feminists with Disabilities for a Way Forward. 

…that I am really tired of having.

For the most part, I am pretty fortunate when it comes to actually
dealing with the process of getting medications. I don’t take any
OMGADDICTIVEADDICTIVE medications which would require people to place
hoops in front of me to jump through every time I need my meds. My
pharmacy is usually very together and I rarely have any problems with
them. Since I am currently surviving about half on samples and half on
prescriptions paid for in cash, I don’t actually have to go into the
pharmacy that often.

Except for this one medication.

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Just the one.

Can you guess what it is?

Here’s how the conversation starts:

Me: Hi, I’m here to pick up a prescription for Smith?

Pharmacist/Pharmacy Tech: Ok, great.

(Whoever is helping me goes to grab it from the back. When they
bring it to the front, I can clearly see that it’s not the right
package.)

Me: Oh, uhm, Dr. Redacted called in a three month supply? That looks like a one month package.

Pharmacist/Pharmacy Tech: Oh, well, the discount plan only pays for one at a time.

Me (confused): I’m not in a discount plan? I always pay cash. For a three month supply.

Pharmacist/Pharmacy Tech: But the discount plan only pays for one month at a time.

Me: I have been getting this prescription at this pharmacy for a
very long time. I always. Pay. Cash. For a three month supply. Every
time! I swear!

Pharmacist/Pharmacy Tech: Oh, you’re not on the discount plan? Sorry. But the insurance still only pays for one at a time.

Me (gritting my teeth): I don’t have insurance. (I come in every
three months to pick up this prescription, I pay in cash for a three
month supply, and every time, we have this exact same conversation. In
fact, the last time this happened, you were the person who helped me.)

Pharmacist/Pharmacy Tech: Oh, ok. Sorry. Well, do you want this?

Me: No, I want a three month supply.

Pharmacist/Pharmacy Tech: Oh, well, I’m going to have to put it back
into stock…and then redo the prescription…are you sure? It’s very
expensive to get a three month supply.

Me: Yes, I’ll wait, thank you. (No, I would not like a month
supply, my need for this medication is not going to suddenly stop in a
month, therefore, I would like three months, so that I can come into
the pharmacy once, NOW, rather than three times.)

Now, what sort of prescription could possibly require this much
fuss? Could it be expensive (it is, a bit)? Could it be dangerous (no,
not really)? Could it be…birth control?! Yup, that’s right,
it’s birth control. And the conversation gets better. The pharmacist
checks off the new package with a three month supply, the tech brings
it up to the counter to ring it up, and this happens:

Tech: Most people use those green cards1?

[She is not, in this case, referring to a US Permanent
Resident card, but rather to the cards issued to people in the
FamilyPACT program, which provides reproductive health services for low
income Californians. I would note, among other things, that this
program at one point paid a bonus to low income folks who got
sterilized. I don’t think they do this anymore, but they definitely pay
for/encourage sterilization. Oh, and it gets better; once you are
sterilized, the program refuses to pay for reproductive wellcare like
Pap smears.
]

 

Me: Oh, I don’t qualify for that.

Tech: Have you considered applying for one?

Me: I don’t qualify for that program.

Tech: Oh, why not?

Me: … *eyebrow*

Tech: Ok, well, $235.87!

So, here’s the thing. This sounds like a kind of minor annoyance.
And, in the grand scheme of things, it is. Way worse things happen to
people with disabilities than this. Way worse things happen to people
with disabilities in pharmacies than this. I am really not complaining that much. If this is the worst thing that happens to me in the pharmacy, so be it.

But, for me, this is an endeavor which basically turns the
silverware drawer upside down. Spoons? I’m out. For days. The pharmacy
is a loud place. It’s bright. It is filled with smells which make me
anxious, and loud noises, and noxious magazines which tell me about how
I can take a diet pill and trim inches and pounds off my tummy.

This prolonged social interaction agitates me every single time.
There’s usually a line. People are glaring at me because I am taking so
long. People are rolling their eyes because I insist on having my
prescription filled properly. I am trying to control myself, because
it’s not the tech’s fault, it’s probably some glitch in their system,
but I want to lunge over the counter, throttle someone, and liberate a
year’s supply of BC from the back room before fleeing out the side
door. I start to hyperventilate. I fidget. I feel like I am exploding
inside.

And, every single time, I ask if it’s possible to put a flag in the
system so that they know that I will pay in cash for a three month
supply. So that a 40 minute ordeal every three months could be turned
into a five minute in and out trip every three months. Every time,
someone says “uh huh, we will look into that,” and then, the next time
I come in, this happens again.

This is a pretty minor thing, in the grand scheme of things, but
it’s yet another tiny little facet of the American health care system
which is broken. While I’m waiting for my correctly prepared
prescription, I watch people go through the line. People with MediCal
or Medicare or CMSP or any number of other welfare programs get to the
counter, hear that a prescription has been denied, and shuffle away
without it. People with private insurance get told that the
authorization for a prescription hasn’t come through, or it’s been
denied, and they look at the prescription and the price on the
register, and they walk away without it. I can tell that the people who
know they will have to pay cash, like me, arrive at the counter and
weigh their options; pick up the prescription today, put off grocery
shopping another week?

I’ve actually had the pharmacist refuse to fill this prescription in
the past until I’ve paid for it. And, you know, I think that they think
they are doing me some sort of budgeting-related favour by trying to
get me to take a month’s supply. But it’s not like I’m not going to
need it next month. And the month after. And the month after that. The
way I budget, I would rather pay a large lump sum every three months
than get dinged every month. Every three months I see a collision of
class issues in the pharmacy. The haves and have nots. The assumptions
that get made by the pharmacy staff. The callous and routine denial of
prescription benefits to people who need them. And every three months I
think there was to be a better way to do this.

Comparatively, I’m lucky. I can at least afford to pay for my
prescriptions most of the time. There are a lot of us out there who
cannot.

News Law and Policy

Wisconsin GOP’s Voter Restriction Law Suffers Another Legal Blow

Imani Gandy

In blocking many of Wisconsin's elections restrictions, the lower court ruled that the state must reform how it deals with voters who have difficulty obtaining the required photo ID to vote.

A federal appeals court yesterday refused to stay a lower court order blocking several Wisconsin voting restrictions, allowing election officials to move forward with early voting in the state next month.

Attorneys on behalf of the state of Wisconsin filed the request for a stay with the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals after a lower court judge last month issued an injunction that blocked parts of Wisconsin’s sweepings elections laws.

The lower court ruled that the justification for the laws did not justify the burden on voting rights that they impose. And this week a three-judge panel of the Seventh Circuit declined to stay that ruling, without explaining.

The ruling comes days after elections officials in Madison and Milwaukee announced their intention to kick off early voting in late September, a month earlier than would have been allowed had the lower court not struck down the restrictions on early voting, according to the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel.

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The Republican-backed elections law created state-imposed limitations on the time and location for in-person absentee voting, a provision requiring absentee ballots be sent by mail instead of fax or email, the requirement that dorm lists—a certified list provided by the university of the students living in college housing, which student voters may use as proof of residence—must include citizenship information, a ban on using expired but otherwise qualifying student IDs to establish proof of residency, and a 28-day durational residency requirement.

In blocking many of Wisconsin’s elections restrictions, the lower court ruled that the state must reform how it deals with voters who have difficulty obtaining the required photo ID to vote. Gov. Scott Walker (R) and the GOP-controlled Wisconsin legislature had implemented a system under which people who don’t have birth certificates or who have problems with gathering documentation needed to obtain the proper identification would still be able to vote.

The lower court noted that the Walker administration’s system did not provide a viable long-term solution for those voters who could not obtain their birth certificates because they were destroyed in fires or misplaced by bureaucrats.

The court later stayed that portion of the ruling, stating that the system created by Walker’s administration—which provides people with temporary voting credentials while they await a decision about whether they qualify for an ID—was sufficient to allow people to vote during the upcoming November election and therefore does not need to be immediately reformed.

The ruling comes on the heels of a ruling in another voting rights case in Wisconsin, Frank v. Walker, about the state’s voter ID law. In that case, a three-judge panel of the Seventh Circuit stayed a ruling that would have permitted anyone eligible to vote in Wisconsin to an accommodation that would permit that voter to cast a ballot after signing an affidavit stating that they could not easily obtain an ID.

Culture & Conversation Family

‘Abortion and Parenting Needs Can Coexist’: A Q&A With Parker Dockray

Carole Joffe

"Why should someone have to go to one place for abortion care or funding, and to another place—one that is often anti-abortion—to get diapers and parenting resources? Why can’t they find that support all in one place?"

In May 2015, the longstanding and well-regarded pregnancy support talkline Backline launched a new venture. The Oakland-based organization opened All-Options Pregnancy Resource Center, a Bloomington, Indiana, drop-in center that offers adoption information, abortion referrals, and parenting support. Its mission: to break down silos and show that it is possible to support all options and all families under one roof—even in red-state Indiana, where Republican vice presidential candidate Gov. Mike Pence signed one of the country’s most restrictive anti-abortion laws.

To be sure, All-Options is hardly the first organization to point out the overlap between women terminating pregnancies and those continuing them. For years, the reproductive justice movement has insisted that the defense of abortion must be linked to a larger human rights framework that assures that all women have the right to have children and supportive conditions in which to parent them. More than 20 years ago, Rachel Atkins, then the director of the Vermont Women’s Center, famously described for a New York Times reporter the women in the center’s waiting room: “The country really suffers from thinking that there are two different kinds of women—women who have abortions and women who have babies. They’re the same women at different times.”

While this concept of linking the needs of all pregnant women—not just those seeking an abortion—is not new, there are actually remarkably few agencies that have put this insight into practice. So, more than a year after All-Options’ opening, Rewire checked in with Backline Executive Director Parker Dockray about the All-Options philosophy, the center’s local impact, and what others might consider if they are interested in creating similar programs.

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Rewire: What led you and Shelly Dodson (All-Options’ on-site director and an Indiana native) to create this organization?

PD: In both politics and practice, abortion is so often isolated and separated from other reproductive experiences. It’s incredibly hard to find organizations that provide parenting or pregnancy loss support, for example, and are also comfortable and competent in supporting people around abortion.

On the flip side, many abortion or family planning organizations don’t provide much support for women who want to continue a pregnancy or parents who are struggling to make ends meet. And yet we know that 60 percent of women having an abortion already have at least one child; in our daily lives, these issues are fundamentally connected. So why should someone have to go to one place for abortion care or funding, and to another place—one that is often anti-abortion—to get diapers and parenting resources? Why can’t they find that support all in one place? That’s what All-Options is about.

We see the All-Options model as a game-changer not only for clients, but also for volunteers and community supporters. All-Options allows us to transcend the stale pro-choice/pro-life debate and invites people to be curious and compassionate about how abortion and parenting needs can coexist .… Our hope is that All-Options can be a catalyst for reproductive justice and help to build a movement that truly supports people in all their options and experiences.

Rewire: What has been the experience of your first year of operations?

PD: We’ve been blown away with the response from clients, volunteers, donors, and partner organizations …. In the past year, we’ve seen close to 600 people for 2,400 total visits. Most people initially come to All-Options—and keep coming back—for diapers and other parenting support. But we’ve also provided hundreds of free pregnancy tests, thousands of condoms, and more than $20,000 in abortion funding.

Our Hoosier Abortion Fund is the only community-based, statewide fund in Indiana and the first to join the National Network of Abortion Funds. So far, we’ve been able to support 60 people in accessing abortion care in Indiana or neighboring states by contributing to their medical care or transportation expenses.

Rewire: Explain some more about the centrality of diaper giveaways in your program.

PD: Diaper need is one of the most prevalent yet invisible forms of poverty. Even though we knew that in theory, seeing so many families who are struggling to provide adequate diapers for their children has been heartbreaking. Many people are surprised to learn that federal programs like [the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children or WIC] and food stamps can’t be used to pay for diapers. And most places that distribute diapers, including crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs), only give out five to ten diapers per week.

All-Options follows the recommendation of the National Diaper Bank Network in giving families a full pack of diapers each week. We’ve given out more than 4,000 packs (150,000 diapers) this year—and we still have 80 families on our waiting list! Trying to address this overwhelming need in a sustainable way is one of our biggest challenges.

Rewire: What kind of reception has All-Options had in the community? Have there been negative encounters with anti-choice groups?

PD: Diapers and abortion funding are the two pillars of our work. But diapers have been a critical entry point for us. We’ve gotten support and donations from local restaurants, elected officials, and sororities at Indiana University. We’ve been covered in the local press. Even the local CPC refers people to us for diapers! So it’s been an important way to build trust and visibility in the community because we are meeting a concrete need for local families.

While All-Options hasn’t necessarily become allies with places that are actively anti-abortion, we do get lots of referrals from places I might describe as “abortion-agnostic”—food banks, domestic violence agencies, or homeless shelters that do not have a position on abortion per se, but they want their clients to get nonjudgmental support for all their options and needs.

As we gain visibility and expand to new places, we know we may see more opposition. A few of our clients have expressed disapproval about our support of abortion, but more often they are surprised and curious. It’s just so unusual to find a place that offers you free diapers, baby clothes, condoms, and abortion referrals.

Rewire: What advice would you give to others who are interested in opening such an “all-options” venture in a conservative state?

PD: We are in a planning process right now to figure out how to best replicate and expand the centers starting in 2017. We know we want to open another center or two (or three), but a big part of our plan will be providing a toolkit and other resources to help people use the all-options approach.

The best advice we have is to start where you are. Who else is already doing this work locally, and how can you work together? If you are an abortion fund or clinic, how can you also support the parenting needs of the women you serve? Is there a diaper bank in your area that you could refer to or partner with? Could you give out new baby packages for people who are continuing a pregnancy or have a WIC eligibility worker on-site once a month? If you are involved with a childbirth or parenting organization, can you build a relationship with your local abortion fund?

How can you make it known that you are a safe space to discuss all options and experiences? How can you and your organization show up in your community for diaper need and abortion coverage and a living wage?

Help people connect the dots. That’s how we start to change the conversation and create support.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

CORRECTION: This article has been updated to clarify the spelling of Shelly Dodson’s name.

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