By Fran Cronin
Even though he served in the Army during the height of the Vietnam war, Boston-born Mike Raftery did not know what it meant to fight for his life until 2009 when the liver cancer in his body became so acute that a liver transplant became his only hope for survival.
Not only is this surgery radical and grueling, it’s also expensive. For Raftery, 61, who attended technical school on the G.I bill to learn computer science, the prospect of high hospital bills and expensive post-operative medications was daunting. Fearing he would lose his health insurance if he went out on disability before his transplant date, Raftery worked until the day he was summoned into the hospital. Post-operatively, his medication intake soared: high doses of immune suppressant drugs, antibiotics, pain relief pills and anti-fungal medications he needed to keep his body from rejecting — and being infected by — his new liver.
The Lone Non-Coupon State
With time on his hands as he slowly recuperated, Raftery did what many patients don’t do. He read the reams of medication pamphlets the hospital gave him upon discharge. In addition to the usual information about efficacy and side effects, Raftery found coupon promotions to help defray the avalanche of co-pays he was accruing from his drug regimen.
Japan-based Astellas Pharma manufactured Prograf, the anti-rejection drug Raftery had to take four times a day. But the insurance he had through his job with the Salvation Army only allowed for a 30-pill per month prescription. So Raftery called the manufacturer to get the cost-saving coupons he had read about. “I had just been through the fight of my life,” said Raftery. “The interviewer gets to the last question and asks me what state I live in. When I said Massachusetts, the interviewer said, ‘sorry, we can’t give them [the coupons] to you.” Continue reading