The Humiliation of Financial Help

Resilience and self-sufficiency are defining American values. From the reverence shown for revolutionaries and homesteaders to the pedestal on which we put entrepreneurs and small businesspeople, it is hammered into our cultural consciousness that a primary goal of our lives is to stand on our own. It is an admirable goal, certainly, but not easy, and not always achievable. When it isn’t, the people who need assistance are often judged as needy and less than.

I never thought I’d be there, publicly exposing my financial inadequacy, my failure to live up to this societal standard. And certainly I am not there in a way that would seriously impact my way of life, but even one little taste of not being able to pay for one of my medications made me feel panicked and humiliated, and shortened my usually long fuse to non-existent.

What happened?

I have a good (day) job. I make a decent salary. I have good health insurance. Over the last couple of decades, I have been able to build a relatively small course of prescription medications to effectively treat all of my conditions. When it came time to choose one of the medications, lo loestrin, I had a lot of choices. But I wanted one that was a very low dose, since I knew that these medications can increase both blood pressure and blood sugar. I tried a different, more commonly used dosage once, but my body didn’t react well.


Until this year, my prescription for lo loestrin was filled for no co-pay. This year, when I went to fill it, I was shocked to learn that my usual three-month prescription was going to cost $448.00. That was after insurance. My new company had generously knocked $32 off the list price. That’s about 7%. I did not have an extra $1,792 for this drug this year.

Enter panic and humiliation. I was paralyzed for a minute, then started furiously researching manufacturer’s coupons. There were two I could find, and I printed the one that seemed like it would give me the best price. Turns out I was wrong. The pharmacist saw which coupon I was trying to use and told me it was basically a fraud (even though it was from the manufacturer). My best bet would be the other coupon. Thankfully, I had an extra 20 minutes to find it, fill out the online paperwork and have it emailed to myself.

I was lucky. My prescription came down to a little over $150. It’s more than I would like, but much more manageable than $448. Also a better option than upsetting the delicate biomedical balance my life runs on by increasing other medication to combat the side effects of a higher dose of lo loestrin.

Even so, I think I will feel a little humiliated every time I have to have that prescription filled and the pharmacist will know I can’t afford it without help. But you know what? This is not my fault. I didn’t do anything to “deserve” it through spending habits or lifestyle, though some judgmental people sometimes think that way. None of us do.

The simple truth is that pharmaceuticals are too expensive. ‘Life’ is listed as the first of the unalienable rights in the Declaration of Independence. We should not feel humiliated or less than in any way for doing what we need to do to achieve that right.

P.S.: If I feel that way after only the merest brush with the inability to pay for medication, I can’t possibly imagine how it feels to deal with it on a regular basis. My sincerest admiration to those who do. Just remember that you are fulfilling the promise of our Founders, and there is nothing more American than that. If you haven’t yet found all the resources you need, here are some I just discovered:



Partnership for Prescription Assistance