Friday, October 11, 2013

The Cost of an Epi-Pen

Anyone who has watched a child start going into anaphylactic shock understands the importance of keeping an epi-pen around.  An epi-pen is an injection device that is used to deliver epinephrine.  They are designed so an individual can self-administer or someone else can easily administer the drug to block anaphylaxsis.   It is a self-contained needle already loaded with epinephrine.   There are two sizes, juvenile and adult.

Epi-pens can be purchased in boxes of two.  This is great for parents -- one for home and one for school.   They expire within a year or so of purchase, and so have to be replenished whether they are used or not.  It's great peace of mind to have one handy if you or a loved one has a severe allergy.

That is a luxury for the wealthy, or at least in the insured.  At my local pharmacy the cost of a double pack of epi-pens (two epi-pins) is $10.00 for people with my kind of insurance (union, yes!!!), and $400.00 for people without insurance.  You read that correctly, $400 for two epi-pens, something that you hope you will never need, that has an expiration date on it.  Families struggling to feed children, buy school supplies, and pay for housing and utilities may decided to skip the expensive purchase, unless they have insurance.  That is a tragedy waiting to happen.

Imagine trying to sleep at night, knowing your child has a potentially life threatening allergy, and not being able to afford the medicine that would save the child.  Or only being able to afford one and knowing there isn't a nurse at your child's school who would have experience using it if needed.

This is the kind of health care spending that is just insane.  What are low income, uninsured parents to do?  I hope the Affordable Care Act can help solve problems like this.

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