Insurance and Jewish Ethics

Image: Me, at the LGBTQ March in Oakland in 2016. “Betzelem Elohim” means “In the image of God”  – human life is a reflection of the Divine One. Photo by Linda Burnett.

I’m sitting in my neighborhood pharmacy waiting for a prescription. I’ve been here an hour and I’m likely to remain here for several more. The insurance company thinks the drug my doctor ordered is too pricey. Last Friday I lost the argument and began taking the drug the insurance company wanted. Today my hemotologist said I’m on the wrong drug and we started over.

Confused? Yes, I was too. My doctor’s office is fussing with the insuror now and I’m hanging tight in the pharmacy. They wanted me to go home, and I politely explained that my next dose of blood thinner is due at 9pm and I will continue to wait because I am not going to take one more dose of the Wrong Blasted Drug.

I really was polite, because I know this is not the clerk’s fault.

Mind you, I have “excellent” insurance. My wife is a retired federal employee. This is happening on good insurance. (And how much the moreso for those with minimal insurance? Or no insurance?)

The problem, it seems, is that the correct drug will cut into profits too much. My life was put at risk last Friday because Heaven forbid my survival interfere with Health Net’s shareholders’ profits. I am not overstating this or being hysterical; my doc is angry, too.

I was originally educated as an economist: I have a B.A. and all the coursework for an M.A. in Economics. I am not ignorant about capitalism. But when capitalism and its profit motives take precedence over human life, we have gone off the deep end and out to sea.

As I wrote in an earlier post, Judaism teaches that it is wrong to value profit over human life. I sit here in the pharmacy and meditate on that inconvenient fact.

Update, May 10: I am exhausted, and have gone home to wait. I had no idea I could be this mad at the same time I am completely exhausted. 

Here’s the kicker- I was not the only person waging this particular battle this afternoon at that same pharmacy. Different drug, exactly the same story. 

I am ashamed to say that I was already acquainted in a purely academic sense with this phenomenon before today. What I lacked was the visceral experience of being the person who can’t get an essential drug because my life isn’t worth it to some bean counter.

I understand that we can’t all have everything we want when we want it. What I don’t understand is why someone’s wallet is ahead in line of me and other sick people.

Update, May 11, 6pm: Health Net has finally approved my treatment after an extensive argument. Whew.