It’s no fun to be a ‘drug-dependent’ senior

IF YOU are one of us senior citizens, you would not always welcome the privilege of “enjoying” discounts on prescription drugs. Sickness is never enjoyable, no matter how cheaper the medicines we spend for. A truly healthy person needs no medicine to get by.

But do we have a better choice whenever the need to be dependent on “maintenance” arises? The most we can do is minimize our afflictions at the least possible cost.  For the poor retirees or those with no more income to lean on, this means relying on well-off children, grandchildren or charitable institutions.

Some people wrongly think we seniors are luckier because with a doctor’s prescription, we are entitled to a 20 percent discount on medicine price on top of value-added tax (VAT) exemption. I used to think so, too, considering the almost 30 percent cut on the original price.

But since ten years ago when I turned 60, I have had second thoughts as to whether the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.

If truth be told, we would rather be free from diseases in order to realign the medicine budget to food and other enjoyable treats.

Secondly, it’s not really true that we seniors get special treatment in the hospitals and drugstores. They tend to squeeze more money from us because we spend more days on confinement and more money on antibiotics.

Under the law (RA 9247), in addition to drug discounts, we are supposed to be entitled to free medical, dental, diagnostic and laboratory services in all government facilities. But these free services are not always available.

And since it’s never comfortable waiting within the long line of patients begging for attention in government facilities, the ones with money tend to go to private laboratories.

It is ironic that we senior citizens or our authorized representatives find it harder than young customers when queuing in any branch of the reputedly biggest pharmaceutical chain. It takes us longer time to complete a transaction because the only one teller in charge has to make sure we present an ID from the Office of Senior Citizens Affairs (OSCA), a senior citizens’ booklet on which she writes down the prescribed drugs, and the doctor’s prescription stationery. No prescription, no discount.

Sad to say, unfortunately, consulting with a private doctor to be prescribed a drug for flu or cough medicine could be more expensive than the medicine itself.

The smaller drugstores circumvent the law by tagging higher prices on medicines sold to senior citizens so that, when discounted, they don’t reflect the true discount.  But their excuse for that could also be true: Unlike their bigger competitors who place bigger orders, they buy the same products in smaller volume from the same suppliers at higher wholesale prices.

There are bigger botikas, however, that do not sell the cheaper generic formulas intentionally because they earn more from pushing the more expensive branded ones.

They are also good at finding “defects”. There was a time when a sales lady name-plated Geelyn would not honor my senior citizen’s ID on the pretext that my doctor had written only the brand name, omitting its generic name, on the prescription sheet.

“Look,” I argued while brandishing my OSCA booklet detailing my past purchases. “I could die of high blood pressure arguing with you. It’s clear what the doctor prescribed.”

I had to cool my unhealthy temper off and buy the needed med from a friendlier competitor nearby. ([email protected]/PN)

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