Type 1 Diabetes: An Emotional Interaction with My Mail Order Pharmacy

Dealing with my new mail order pharmacy has been a rollercoaster ride. I’ve been lied to, spoken to by people using grand amounts of sarcasm, and had issue after issue with their odd billing practices. The other day I had a conversation that left me in tears.

I called to check on some insulin that hadn’t shipped out due to payment issues. The payment issue stemmed from when the doctor’s office made a mistake on the dosing information for the insulin, thus shorting my order. The mail order pharmacy wanted payment of $125 for the insulin prior to sending. The problem was that I had already paid $125 for the initial shipment of this insulin, which should have included this insulin. The pharmacy told me to have the doctor’s office call to do a “price override”. When the doctor’s office tried that, the pharmacy told them they didn’t know what they were referring to, that this wasn’t an option, and there was no documentation on their end of their representative advising me to do that.

I tried to see what we could do about getting the insulin shipped without me having to pay another $125. I had already spent $500 on the original shipment of medications, including another type of insulin (fast-acting) and test strips. The representative on the phone spoke to me like I was a spoiled child, insisting that I had saved so much money over retail, so I was lucky. I guess she was bewildered about why I’d argue so much over $125. She said, “The price per bottle is over $200 each at retail. You have saved hundreds of dollars off the retail price of this insulin. Your insurance plan saved you so much money”. This struck a nerve. I shot back, “Don’t go there. Don’t go there for a second. Unless you live with diabetes and need liquid injected seven times a day to stay alive, you don’t get to tell me that I am saving all this money. I shouldn’t have to pay twice for insulin I need to stay alive!” I started to cry. I shared that I had lived with Type 1 diabetes for a majority of my life and had spent tens of thousands of dollars on insulin. That doesn’t feel lucky. Living with a chronic illness is insanely expensive. I told her there are people out there that die because they can’t afford insulin and that I was extremely grateful not to be one of them. “You just can’t say that to people, you just can’t,” I stressed to her.

She apologized. She said she was sorry she had said something hurtful. I appreciated that. I knew she didn’t know why it had struck such a deep nerve, and that she wasn’t trying to be hurtful, but it stung. She looked at my account and noticed the price outstanding for my test strips was also $125. She commented, “Wow, those test strips are expensive.” I agreed and said that everything is expensive when dealing with diabetes. The test strips should have been paid for already since they had told me on two separate occasions that they were billing my card, though both reps had somehow not gone through with it and ended up invoicing me instead. I was bordering on hysteria at this point. Why was this all so difficult? What did I have to do to get my medication?

I think she felt sorry for the way I’d been treated. After hearing the cracking in my voice and knowing I was just trying to get to the bottom of this to get my insulin, she said she was applying a $100 credit as a courtesy. I was speechless. I started crying harder. I was overwhelmed with emotions after our interaction and surprised that she would offer to help. I was still slightly upset that the issue had cost me anything but figured $25 would be worth it to close this awful chapter of mail-order pharmacy drama. I thanked her and told her that it meant so much to me. She told me she hoped things got better for me and said, “God Bless you.” I offered her back a blessing with tears streaming down my cheeks. I was amazed that our interaction had gone from bristling and abrupt to soft, sensitive, and caring. I know it was the doctor’s office that had been the ones to leave out the full dose, but Sue from the mail-order pharmacy helped cover the “oops”. I was truly thankful to her.

I miss my neighborhood pharmacy. I’m not allowed to visit them with my insurance unless I want to pay close to full-blown retail for my prescriptions. I miss the human interaction that I had with them at the counter. They knew me. They cared about how I was doing each month when I’d drop by. The phone representatives at a mail-order pharmacy don’t have that familiarity with their clients. You can’t request a specific representative. It’s the luck of the draw. I hope that the next refill goes off without a hitch. If it doesn’t, I’ll hope to get another representative that can try to understand how difficult life with a chronic illness is.