Let’s keep life-saving medications affordable

Stored in the refrigerator too long, the rusty needle broke when my mother tried to use it.

I was 12 years old, and a few minutes earlier, I’d been stung by a wasp, had an allergic reaction, went into anaphylactic shock, and was struggling for breath.  My single mother rushed me home, where she tried to inject me with potentially life-saving epinephrine, when the needle broke.

We rushed back out to the car and to the nearby ER, where I staggered in, was grabbed by a nurse and given epinephrine, which saved my life.

I never did ask why we had gone home first, or why the sting-kit hadn’t been replaced, but now it does occur to me that most likely we were without health insurance at the time.

A few years later, I was out on a back-country canoe trip, stepped on a bumble-bee nest, and was able to calmly sit down and use my sting kit – we were insured!

Currently, the only readily-available and easy to use sting kit is the Epipen.  Last fall, Mylan, the sole manufacturer, jacked the price up once again, to $600 (Mylan, under pressure, has since dropped this price).

Conservatives in Congress are currently working to “Repeal and Replace” the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare).  Their plan will throw 24 million people off of health insurance by 2026.  Their plan will literally deny millions of people life-saving medication, and put us all at the mercy of the whims of giant pharmaceutical companies.  However, repeal of the ACA is not a forgone conclusion – the conservatives’ attempts at repeal are on a knife edge, and might very well fail.

What hard choices will parents of children with severe allergies face?  If they cannot afford health insurance, or an Epipen, can they safely send their kids to summer camp?  Or do they always stay within 15 minutes of an ER?  Do they take chances on keeping an Epipen months or years past its expiration date?  If they are moderate income, what do they sacrifice so that they can afford a new Epipen?  Or do they hope they can get by without one?  And how often will tragedy strike, like in the bad old days?

Say “NO” to the conservatives’ attempts to bring back the bad old days, and join us this Saturday for the Rally for Affordable Healthcare.  Let’s keep life-saving medications available to all of us.

– J. Comfort

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