Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The January Experience

Every retail pharmacist has a wonderful little anecdote about the craziness of working in a retail pharmacy in January. I figured I'd share a story that I feel epitomizes the entire January experience.

A customer comes to pick up some prescriptions. They were filled, but billed for cash because we needed her new insurance information.

"But I have the same insurance as before!!" she exclaimed.

"No, I'm sorry, but something must have changed because when we billed it, it came back 'filled after coverage terminated,'" I replied.

She continued to insist that nothing changed and then busted out her insurance card as proof. It was a Cigna card, and of course, it wasn't a pharmacy card as it didn't mention RX anywhere on the card. I explained to her that it was only her medical card, and she must have a separate pharmacy card.

"This is the only card I got!!!" she asserted.

"Fine... I will call the insurance company, but I guarantee they're going to tell me exactly what I told you," I said to her. Then I proceeded to call them. After 5 minutes on hold, I got to speak to a representative. This representative, as predicted, told me she no longer had prescription coverage with Cigna. However, amazingly, he was able to tell me that her new coverage was through Express Scripts.

I thanked the representative, hung up the phone, and then proceeded to call Express Scripts. After another 5 minutes on hold, I was able to speak to a representative who gave me all the information I needed to bill the claim.

Great! It only took 20 minutes of my time, but I was able to bill her prescriptions to the correct insurance. I told her that she was all set, and she responded, "Did they just change the ID number or something?"

"No... Your insurance is through an entirely different processor now. Your pharmacy claims are now being handled by Express Scripts," I informed her.

"Express Scripts? OHHHHHHHH!!!! So that's what must be in that letter from Express Scripts that's sitting unopened on my kitchen counter!!!" she said.

(FUUUUUUUUUUUUCK YOOOOUUUUUUU!!!!!) I didn't yell out loud but really really wanted to.

Every part of that story is true, and I think it perfectly sums up the entire month of January in the retail pharmacy world. We waste so much freaking time trying to bill and rebill insurances because customers are too fucking stupid to bring the new insurance card to the pharmacy.

Furthermore, how can you not know what benefits you have? I don't know how other places work, but I know that every year, I'm responsible for choosing my benefit options. I must enroll in medical, pharmacy, and dental plans. I get a big information packet that fully explains all my options. Is this unique to my employer? Is it really a big mystery to some people?

And while I'm ranting, why the hell do people save old insurance cards? I get so annoyed every time I ask someone for a new insurance card, and they pull out a wallet containing every insurance card they've ever been issued for the last 15 years. Get rid of the old cards! You don't need them anymore. Even if by some incredibly small chance you do need one of them some day, just keep them at home. Why do they all have to be in your wallet?

I had another conversation with a different customer about why her copay suddenly jumped from $10 to $40.

"Why is it so much now? It's always been $10!" she said.

"Ma'am, it was $10 on your old insurance. You have new insurance now, and they're charging a $40 copay," I tried to explain.

"But, why would it suddenly go up when it was always $10," she once again stated.

"That... was... your... old... insurance. This is a different insurance plan," I tried to spell out as clearly as possible to her.

"Whatever... I don't get it. I'm going to call them to complain," she said becoming irritated.

"Good... You do that," I replied.

I hate to side with insurance companies on anything because they make our jobs about 100 times harder than they have to be. However, often times, the customer's stupidity is just as much to blame for these situations. Whether it's not bringing in their new insurance cards, not knowing that they have new insurance, or not understanding that different insurances have different formularies and copay structures, customer stupidity is just as hard to deal with as insurance company stupidity.

I can't wait until this month's over. Who am I kidding though? February is only marginally better.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

I Feel Like I'm Going Crazy

I go days at a time without turning on my TV. Work, which I used to not mind all that much, has suddenly become a huge chore to me. I've completely lost track of my favorite sports teams, and I've even lost the urge to play basketball 24/7.

The things and activities that made up my entire life for the previous 3 years suddenly feel so unfulfilling to me. Basically, the reason for this is that I spend every moment of my day thinking about how I wish I could see my girlfriend. I've never felt so strongly towards someone so quickly. She consumes my thoughts. I think about ways I can make her happy literally all day long.

I know that it's so early in this relationship, but I'm pretty sure I love her. When I'm away from her, I eagerly await the next time I'll get to see her. When I'm with her, it just feels right. It feels so natural to wake up with her right next to me. When she's not here, I go to bed and wake up feeling so lonely.

I was never like this before, even with my ex. Honestly, I hated sharing a bed with her. I never felt like I could get a good night's sleep, so I never wanted to sleep over. Even when we lived together for a couple months, I just could never get used to it. Now with my girlfriend, I have no problem.

We've already said "I love you" to each other. She said it first, but the timing was less than ideal (it was New Year's Eve, and she was pretty drunk at the time). She apologized the next day for blurting it out so soon, but she also affirmed that she did mean what she said. I told her I felt the same, despite it being early in the relationship.

Despite all this, we both admitted to each other that we have fears about the relationship. She said she's afraid that the "magic" we're feeling now will some day go away. I told her I was afraid of being hurt again. However, I also told her that I wasn't going to let fear rule my life. The bottom line was that I'm presently extremely happy, and that's all I'm going to think about. She agreed this was a good outlook.

All of this just doesn't seem real to me. I've spent so long feeling like every meaningful thing in my life was destined to fail. It's this expectation of catastrophe that is so hard for me to handle. I'm just waiting for something to go wrong, so despite the fact that I love her, love being with her, and will do just about anything to make her happy, I don't feel completely comfortable with the relationship. I'm taking things one week at a time because I'm too afraid to make plans any further in the future.

While I'm rambling, let me tell you a little about the girl that stole my heart. She went to the same high school as I did, but we never knew each other in school. Her best friend is one of my best friends' sister. We've both been friends with these siblings since we were in kindergarten, so we have shared memories of my friend's house and the neighborhood even though we never knew of each other until recently.

She was quiet in high school... like me. She admits to thinking too much and over analyzing things. Sound familiar? Her mind works a lot like mine. We tend to think of the same things, and often, we think of them at the same time. It's actually almost eerie how much we think alike.

She studied photography in college and now works as a photo editor and a photographer. She's artistic and very creative. She likes arts and crafts. She has a million art supplies in her room, and her floor is perpetually covered in glitter. However, she's terrible at math and not particularly good at science. See, her strengths are my weaknesses and vice versa. I joke that the two of us combined would make one pretty incredibly talented person.

She also loves to cook and bake, and she likes a wide variety of food, which makes her great to go out to eat with. Since I love to eat (probably as much as any guy you'll ever meet who weighs 155 pounds), she's a really good match for me in this regard.

Oh yeah... and she's cute.

I'm sorry for rambling on. I'm just feeling simultaneously excited and nervous right now. I'm excited things have gone so well up to this point. I'm extremely nervous because I really don't want this to fall apart. I'm doing everything in my power to ensure it doesn't, but I know I can't control everything in life. I guess the only thing I can do is constantly show her how much I care about her and never give her any reason to doubt it. If I do that, and things still go wrong, then I can't have any regrets because I'll know I did everything I could.

That's probably the only positive lesson I learned from my breakup with my ex. I spent years regretting many of the words I said and decisions I made in that relationship. I didn't always treat her like I should have, and that's ultimately one of the reasons it failed. I won't make that mistake again. I promise myself that.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Because Someone Asked...

Someone asked for a "girlfriend update," so I guess you'll have to endure one...

Yes, she is officially my girlfriend. Overall, things are going quite well. There are a few little things that have been bugging me a little bit though.

First, the distance, while not being an insurmountable obstacle, is a bit of an issue for me. I don't mind driving an hour to see her. I've driven to her place after getting out of work, and I've driven back from her place late at night when I had to work the next morning. I'm not concerned with not getting enough sleep because I can always make up sleep. I just don't like the feeling that we have to plan out every time we want to do something.

It's hard to be spontaneous when we're so far apart. For example, I can't just rent a movie after getting out of work and have a nice relaxing evening with her. In fact, seeing each other during the week is very hard. If I get a day off where I don't have to work super early the next day, I'll make the trip up there. Otherwise, we're confined to just weekends... and our weekends together have been great! I have absolutely no complaints about the time we spend together. She's great. The time we spend apart is another story.

Maybe I lack the experience of how to handle new relationships, but I find myself struggling when she's not here. I hate to compare relationships, but it's my only frame of reference. With my ex, we never spent a lot of time apart. From the time we started dating until the very end, we were pretty much inseparable. There were very few days where we didn't see each other. Not only did we see each other, but we spent most of our time together.

I guess that's the only way I know how to be in a relationship, so when we spend 5 or 6 days without seeing each other, the seeds of doubt start springing up in my head again. I talk to her on the phone everyday day, but I feel like our phone conversations aren't that great. It has nothing to do with us not getting along. We just live entirely separate lives during the week. Our jobs are entirely different. I don't really understand what she does, and she doesn't have a good grasp of what I do. We have a couple mutual friends, but otherwise, we don't know the same people. She talks about her friends, but since I've never met most of them, I can't participate in the conversation as much as I would like.

Basically, we don't have much to talk about. It really hurts that neither of us watch much TV. She doesn't even have cable in her apartment, and I haven't actually watched TV in weeks, so neither of us are that up to date on current events. If we can't talk about work that much, and we can't talk about current events, and we've already gotten past the getting-to-know-each-other phase, what else is there to talk about?

I don't know... I feel like when we're together, there's major fireworks, but when we're apart, that spark just isn't there. It's probably just a new relationship thing. This is probably the way people normally feel after only a month of dating. As we have more common experiences and get more comfortable with each other, the connection will probably become much stronger. After all, two people never start out deeply in love. That kind of bond takes time to form.

For now, I'm going to try not to think too much about it and just go with the flow. All I know is that she's a great girl, and I love the time we spend together. I just need to be patient.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

My New Year's Resolution

I think my resolution for this year is for me to start calling things as I see them. This mostly applies to the pharmacy. I'm just sick of having to kiss ass and be ultra polite and "professional" in the face of people who lack any form of common sense.

Take for example the woman from this past weekend who flipped out at the pharmacy counter when she came to pick up her birth control that she called in to refill Thursday afternoon (New Year's Eve) only to find that we didn't have it in stock and had to order it for Monday. She completely blew up on us saying that we should have called her to let her know we didn't have it. We were irresponsible, etc., etc.

Maybe she's right. Maybe the polite and customer-friendly thing to do would have been to let her know. However, if we want to talk irresponsible, why the fuck do you wait until the day before a long holiday weekend to call in a refill for a medication that you seemingly desperately need? If it was sooooo important to you to take that first tablet on time, why didn't you give us several business days notice?

The answer of course was that she wasn't thinking. Thinking customers are a rarity. Seriously, doesn't it blow your mind when someone actually says that they usually call in their medications a week in advance? Despite the fact that I tell just about everyone to do this, it happens so rarely that I'm literally overwhelmed with joy when a customer tells me they actually do it.

I'm sick of having to apologize for shit that doesn't really matter and isn't really our fault. My responsibility is to fill whatever prescriptions I am presented with safely and accurately. It is not my responsibility to ensure a product is in stock at all times just so one particular person can call in a script and pick it up in the same day. It's not my responsibility to be tracking down customers in order to tell them we had to order something for the next day. Honestly, I don't care.

There are some exceptions, of course. If the out-of-stock item is something that skipping a dose could be harmful for the patient(like antiepileptics or HIV drugs for example), I'll do my best to let the patient know we're out of stock. Birth control? Not that important. A person can go without for a day or two.

Then there was the moron who called up to see if a prescription was called in for her. It was, but instead of being happy that her doctor's office called it in, and it was ready for her, she questioned why we never bothered to call her to let her know the prescription was ready. Lady, we filled 500 prescriptions yesterday. How the hell are we supposed to call every single person who had a prescription called in?

So... My resolution is that if you say something stupid, I'm going to call you on it. To hell with the motto "the customer is always right." Fuck that. I'm right much more often than they are. I work 40 hours per week in the pharmacy. I think I should get the benefit of the doubt.