With an array of serious health problems, James and Dolores Smith take a combined 17 prescription medications, some which cost $300 apiece for a month's supply.
Insurance had covered much of the Smiths' prescription costs, but not all, leaving the couple on the hook for $2,000 in out-of-pocket payments annually.
When 64-year-old Dolores lost her job and employer-provided insurance last winter, the Oswego, New York, couple maintained their prescription-drug buying by relying on a sympathetic pharmacist who extended them credit. They also put other non-medical purchases, including food, on credit cards. But that debt soon became unmanageable for the couple, whose combined income is less than $45,000 annually.
"I was paying the pharmacy what I owe, but I had a hard time paying my credit card bills," said Dolores, who suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, partial heart blockage and extreme anxiety. Her 79-year-old husband has congestive heart failure, kidney failure and COPD as well.
"Without the insurance, it was real tough," said Dolores, who stopped going to her pulmonologist and heart specialist during the time she lacked health coverage.