Darrell Berkheimer: Help at Grass Valley pharmacy yields big savings | TheUnion.com

Darrell Berkheimer: Help at Grass Valley pharmacy yields big savings

Darrell Berkheimer

I saved $85 at the pharmacy this past week — all because an employee there thought the price was quite high for the prescription sent in by the doctor’s office.

The employee works at Dokimos’ East Main Street Pharmacy, and she suggested that the $96 cost — even with my Medicare deduction — was too expensive for such a small amount. So she recommended checking with a pharmacist on duty if a generic prescription might be available.

She obviously realized I’m a retiree, and I’m sure that most pharmacies are well aware that the majority of their retired customers are on fixed incomes with their resources often stretched to at, or near, the limit.

After checking with the pharmacist, she came back to report, “That is a generic.”

“Wow,” I responded.

Then she suggested that perhaps the pharmacist could recommend another, cheaper antibiotic that might work just as well to eliminate the infection. She added that Dokimos could fax the doctor’s office to see if an alternate prescription would be acceptable, if I was willing to wait.

I was glad Dokimos offered to contact the doctor’s office for me, and noted that I had the time to wait. But about 20 minutes later she reported, “We’re not getting a response from the doctor’s office. Perhaps if you call, you’ll get some action.”

So I went out to the quiet of my car to make the call. On my first attempt, a recording directed me to push a certain number to get the department that handles prescriptions. That yielded a recording telling me to leave a message, and that I would receive a return call no later than “tomorrow.”

I dialed again and pushed the button to get the receptionist’s desk. After explaining why I was calling, I was told I would be transferred to someone who could help. But when I was transferred, I received the same recorded announcement that told me someone would return my call no later than tomorrow.

Finally, on the third call, I again explained what I needed. And this time, after holding for a short period, I was advised that someone would be contacting the pharmacy with an alternative prescription.

Finally, after about a hour and a half at the pharmacy, I received the alternate prescription. Then, with the Medicare deduction, my cost was only $10.23.

That brought another “Wow” from me; and this time with the added exclamation, “What a big difference.”

I thanked the employee repeatedly, and told her this experience is a very good example why my partner, Mary Orr, has insisted on dealing with Dokimos for so many years. And I’ll be happy to take an $85 return on an hour-and-a-half investment any time.

Other pharmacies might have some employees just as helpful and conscientious, but Mary’s comment was, “That’s the kind of service I always get at Dokimos.”

Then Mary raised the big question, “Why didn’t the doctor prescribe the cheaper alternative in the beginning? Doctors should know the costs of different drugs; and why would they prescribe such an expensive one when another is so much cheaper?”

The situation reminded me of one of my columns The Union published (Oct. 14, 2016), in which I detailed a dozen ways and reasons why drug companies are reaping huge profits from exorbitant prices.

One of those 12 is: “Because drug companies are allowed to pay doctors to prescribe and recommend their drugs — a conflict of interest prohibited in other professions.”

Although the practice is legal, it’s certainly highly unethical.

Much of the information in that 2016 column came from the book Saving Capitalism by economist Robert Reich. His book notes doctors receive hundreds of millions of dollars every year from drug companies for such services.

I can’t say that the price differences in my situation was because a drug company was paying the doctor’s office to push a higher-cost prescription, because I don’t have knowledge of the details involved. Maybe the original, more expensive prescription has a higher potency capable of combating the infection much faster.

But I do know that if Dokimos employee Jennifer Fife had not suggested that a cheaper prescription might be available, there’s a good chance I would have thought my only option was to pay the $96 if I was going to get the antibiotic that I needed.

So I’m taking this opportunity to say publicly, Thank you again, Jennifer, for helping me save $85. And thank you Dokimos for hiring such a conscientious employee.

The situation was a splendid example of the caring for others, and the excellent customer service, that we see so often in this Grass Valley-Nevada City community.

The key word is caring!

Darrell Berkheimer, who lives in Grass Valley, is a frequent contributor to The Union. He is the author of five books available through Amazon. Contact him at mtmrnut@yahoo.com.

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