Saturday, March 07, 2009

Medical insurance deficient for Lupus patients

I talked to a friend with Lupus Tuesday, and she confirmed her insurance wouldn't pay for drugs that her doctor has prescribed, which have helped her, because the insurance company labels them "experimental". She said she is able to afford them because he doctor gives her free samples.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Sunday, March 01, 2009

It was exactly like “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.”

Except it all took place within the drawl-inflected walls of the Georgia Capitol. And instead of Jimmy Stewart, the lead role belonged to Regina Olmstead, a 45-year-old secretary/bookkeeper for a Palmetto tire shop.

“I was like a nervous wreck getting here,” Olmstead confided one recent morning as she waited patiently inside Senate Committee Room 125 for Lupus Awareness Day to begin. It was her first trip to the Capitol to try to buttonhole elected officials, and the budding citizen-activist had arrived at 7:45 a.m.

“I got the last handicapped spot,” said Olmstead, seemingly unimpressed with having mastered the one thing harder to pull off at the Gold Dome than balancing the budget. “They really need more parking here.”

Olmstead was one of about 75 people here to hand out literature, politely bend lawmakers’ ears and conduct a rousing rally where some of those leaning most heavily on canes still managed to clap the loudest. Olmstead herself had chosen to ignore her chronic joint pain, fatigue and feelings of trepidation so “they” —- the politicians and others who inhabit the Capitol, making countless decisions that affect Georgians’ lives —- could hear from a “lobbyist” who knows the lupus issue all too well.
Some 55,000 Georgians have the auto-immune disease that causes severe inflammation, pain and damage to the body. Symptoms can range from the frequent fatigue, headaches and “butterfly” face blotches Trisha M. Saxton, 20, of Marietta experiences to the major organ problems that claimed the life of Olmstead’s older sister (another sister also has the disease).

A pharmaceutical Catch-22 doesn’t help. Insurance won’t pay for some effective drugs because they weren’t developed specifically for treating lupus. But the last FDA-approved drug to specifically treat lupus hit the market in … well, let’s just say that Dwight Eisenhower’s name probably hadn’t been heard this much at the Georgia Capitol since D-Day.

“We haven’t had a new drug for lupus for 50 years, since Eisenhower was president,” Olmstead told Butler at the meeting, which was meant to raise awareness of the disease and learn more about navigating Georgia’s public health and insurance policy waters. “So we have to borrow other people’s drugs.”

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