Elderly couple found dead in murder-suicide left notes about issues paying for medical care

(CNN/Meredith) — After an elderly couple in Washington state was found dead in an apparent murder-suicide, investigators said they found notes suggesting the pair was struggling to pay medical bills.

Brian Jones called 911 on Wednesday morning and told the dispatcher he was going to shoot himself, according to the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office. The 77-year-old said he had prepared a note for the sheriff containing information and instructions and told the operator, “We will be in the front bedroom.”
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I can sympathize with this. Last month the cost of several of Lisa’s medications went through the roof and we’ve pretty much spent what little savings we had covering them. I mean, we’ll get by – our bills are paid and we have food, but we damned sure don’t have any money for anything else like gasoline or any repairs that pop up. Seriously, I haven’t even started my truck in 3 days.
We’ll see her doctor at the beginning of next month to see if she can switch those meds to something cheaper, but until then we’re hanging on by the skin of our teeth.

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62 Responses to Elderly couple found dead in murder-suicide left notes about issues paying for medical care

  1. Reltney McFee says:

    “Goodrx.com”. check it out

    also, ask the pharmacist about (a) alternatives to the expensive stuff, as well as (b) if they are aware of other pharmacies that have better pricing.

    For example, my (WalMart) pharmacist suggested that i get my statin at Meijers, where is was free.

    Hope that helps you.

  2. Dick Blocksma says:
  3. “We’ll see her doctor at the beginning of next month to see if she can switch those meds to something cheaper, but until then we’re hanging on by the skin of our teeth.”

    In addition, phone the doctor’s office. From time to time, the prescriber can switch to another, cheaper, med, perhaps even on the phone. If no switch is reasonable, new (expensive) meds often have samples left by the drug rep at the office as samples, or “patient assistance plan” programs, to help with spendy medications, particularly for folks who have no/poor insurance and tight budgets.

  4. Rob in Mo says:

    We can help out.

    • anonymous says:

      “We’ll see her doctor at the beginning of next month to see if she can switch those meds to something cheaper, but until then we’re hanging on by the skin of our teeth.”

      Yeah, that won’t do – we take care of our own.

  5. Trish says:

    I feel for you. My mom had a mini stroke (no permanent damage) and they put her on a blood thinner that was $380 a month. She does not have drug insurance. I contacted her doctor and low and behold after about a month of research she found a comparable drug that costs $6.80 a month. I think the doctors try to push the expensive stuff because they get some kind of kickback. No proof but that is my theory.

    • fjord says:

      This has been written about many times in many places.

      • arc says:

        Its the way of the game, kickbacks for loading them up on drugs.
        Source: two family nurses, retired.

    • whynot says:

      No “perks” allowed anymore (not since the mid-2010s, at least officially), including vacation trips, at least from the ones I see. Though it would be useful to ask if they are on any “speaking bureaus” for the company. Make sure the drug inserts are being read. We get used to writing a particular drug because we “know” about it (meaning side effects, drug-drug interactions, etc). I can’t remember the last time I wrote for name-brand.

      The flip side is, one of my meds has to be name-brand. Generics are allowed a 10% swing either way, meaning 100 mg of X name-brand, generic can be from 90-110 mg – not so good when tight tolerances are needed.

      ALWAYS ask for generics. If not recommended, ask why. At the end of the day, you the patient have to live with the decision. I pay extra because I don’t want my cancer coming back. I don’t pay extra for my blood pressure medicine as wider tolerances are acceptable to me.

  6. Richard Watson says:

    Ever heard of GoodRX? Check it out.

    • Harold Foster says:

      I use GoodRX and my meds are cheaper than if I use my “insurance” .

  7. Yinzer says:

    @Trish: Doctors absolutely get kickbacks from drug companies for prescribing specific drugs. They will deny it and say that they do not take any money. They DO receive $$$ via participating in focus groups which pay cash; the marketing company doing the focus groups will pay anything the doctor agrees to. Also, doctors receive compensation in the form of trips and “gifts.” So, while they can say with a straight face that they don’t take kickbacks in the form of $$$, they DO get compensated.

    • Dear Yinzer: “@Trish: Doctors absolutely get kickbacks from drug companies for prescribing specific drugs. They will deny it and say that they do not take any money. They DO receive $$$ via participating in focus groups which pay cash; the marketing company doing the focus groups will pay anything the doctor agrees to. Also, doctors receive compensation in the form of trips and “gifts.” So, while they can say with a straight face that they don’t take kickbacks in the form of $$$, they DO get compensated.”

      Unless you have, personally, received such a kickback, or have direct, personal knowledge of such a thing, I call bullshit.

      I’m a PA. I’ve prescribed meds for (nought goes into nought, carry the nought…lessee….) fourteen years this fall. I have seen pens, and in-office lunches, but have not seen, nor have I heard, of trips and “‘gifts'”. Indeed, hospital employed physicians will lose their jobs for such a thing. Staff privileges can be revoked for such a thing. Medicare and medicaid take, to be charitable, a dim view of such an exchange. And, being locked out of medicare and medicaid will dramatically cut a physician’s income.

      And I have received invitations to participate in “focus groups”, and surveys, which offer me the princely sum of $5 or $10 to participate.

      I do not participate, primarily because I’m an irritable curmudgeon.

      Mostly, new meds are prescribed because they are on the prescriber’s radar. It makes absolutely no cash flow difference to me whether you take “A” or “B”, or decide that I’m full of shit and take nothing.

      Having said that, if you (or me: Brilinta is surprisingly expensive, and, since I’m a geriatric heart patient, well, my cardiologist thinks it is kind of a good idea that I do not form new clots. Huh!? Who knew?) find a med to be too spendy to work out for you, well, when I am the prescriber, and am told such a thing, I reconsider and investigate to see if another med, less expensive, might work nearly as well. If yes, off to the phone I go! If not, well, I then have a reasoned basis, due to thoughtful investigation, to prescribe the high dollar medication, instead of another.

      On the other hand, if YOUR doctor is just THAT corrupt, why are you entrusting your health (and your family’s health) to him/her?

      • oldawg says:

        Thanks. I have had my Docs go the extra step as well. I have been using help plans from two pharma companies that they not only found for me but helped us get enrolled into along with prescribing generics when they feel good about them. The only kick I have is that my primary Doc can afford better hunting trips than me……..when he can find time to go. Yeah and I trust my Docs with my life.

      • Yinzer says:

        I know this all from first hand knowledge. You’re a PA, not a licensed doctor. Don’t strain your health over it.

    • Michael says:

      Yinzer – I’m sure that you’re familiar with my employer (UPMC). I must second the bullshit call on this. If I was found to be doing this, I would face “corrective action”, PC speak for a reprimand. I can’t accept jack from a pharma rep. If I do so, I must sign for it. There is a federal database for Big Pharma payments to physicians, and anything over $600 (total, for the year) is public information. If they brought lunch to my office, the cost of lunch for the entire staff would be listed as payment to me. My local paper (and probably yours) publishes info from that report every year. I don’t take anything from reps. I rarely have time to see them anyway. The things that you talk about might have happened 15-20 years ago, but I don’t know many (if any) docs today who get much from reps.

      • Michael says:

        …and, the reason the expensive drugs are used is that they often are better at treating the problem in question. Generics are often useful, but may not be the best choice. I try to be cost conscious for my patients, but there are situations where the expensive choice is the better clinical decision.

      • Yinzer says:

        Not every med professional is employed by Jeffrey.

  8. Carl says:

    Struggling to breathe due to severe asthma and barely able to stand, i was informed my asthma inhaler had gone from a copay of 1.35dollars, yes, less than 2 dollars, to 300 dollars and i’m supposed to put it towards my ten thousand dollar deductible. Had to settle for over the counter primatene mist at thirty dollars. I am trapped in my house now. My activity has to remain near zero without my primary inhalers. I go thru two of these per month. I dont know how i am going to survive this in the long term. I cant afford over 7000 dollars worth of inhalers. 600 per month from less than three. We put our house on the market over this. We have to down size. Lower our taxes. Lower utilities. I dont know what else to do.c

    • fjord says:

      Do you have a nebulizer?
      Ampules of albuterol are longer lasting relief.

      After we figured we couldn’t afford ins. And I had to go off those steroid based “maintenance” inhalers I got a nebulizer. Even w/o ins it was less than $100 and the albuterol ampules are roughly $12 for 75.
      The advair was $400/ month

      My opinion is that maintenance inhalers make you dependent on it. Took a long time but my lung function improved after 18months, although I use my rescue inhaler every day.
      I only use the nebulizer when I get bronchitis which is almost every time I get a cold. Which hasn’t been for a few years ~knock wood~.

      Course I don’t know if you have other health issues but I’m surprised a nebulizer hasn’t been suggested.

      The rescue inhalers are crappier for more $$ too. The last 10 puffs are useless because of lack of propellerant.

      • whynot says:

        Where to begin….. depends on the classification of you asthma. The very fact you use a rescue inhaler DAILY (as you state) puts you at moderate persistent asthma which does need inhaled steroids to prevent remodeling in the airways.

        No, nebulizers are NOT better than inhalers (MDIs – metered-dose inhalers). More convenient for hospitals yes, but NOT more effective (unless you’re using a MDI withOUT a spacer). Do a Google search…..

        First, you need to make sure the diagnosis is correct (see a pulmonologist or internal medicine doc or family doc to have a PFT – pulmonary function test). If confirmed asthma, then you need to be daily Peak Flows, gives early warning of impending attacks. Then have the discussion of how to prevent exacerbations (“attacks”) and how to treat chronic.

        The above is NOT to be construed as medical advice. I ain’t your doctor.

        I’m so trying to be nice here….but your advice can cost someone their life. Over 5K people die each year from asthma……..

    • whynot says:

      Carl,

      Check with your local hospital for Social Services. Also check with your doc for alternatives to the meds. Primatene Mist is a no-go, temporary relief with adverse long-term problems (including heart). Also have your docs check with pharmaceutical reps for qualifying programs.

      Ken – please forward my information to Carl.

    • Rayvet says:

      We use long acting, steroid based inhalers in our feline and canine patients all the time. Multiple hundreds of dollars. Easy solution. I write the script, the owner sends it to Canadian pharmacy, voila, a fraction of the cost here. You folks should do that too.

    • Ed says:

      My daughter has asthma and she’s on a daily inhaler. She was using Advair which is quite expensive. But recently, the pharmacy issued to her a generic version which cost less than half the price of Advair. You might ask your Dr. or pharmacist about that. She’s noticed no difference between the high-priced blend and the generic, BTW.

  9. Paul B says:

    Boat payments. Wife is in Chemo right now. but based on her treatment plan I will not get to retire for 5 more years at a minimum. Health care is out of hand and if something is not done to stop the monopoly I will never get to “retire”

  10. I had a lot of problems medically in the last 6 years. Over 2 years spent either in the hospital or at physical rehab as an in patient. multiple surgeries. it was rough emotionally let alone financially.
    The sad and unfortunate truth is that we become prisoners of our aging and eventually all of us will find ourselves in the dilemma of spiraling medication costs and an inability to pay for them.

    Many pharmaceutical companies have low cost or no cost programs for people who cannot afford their medications. Not everyone qualifies for these and unfortunately there are many medications that there are no programs like these to help out.

    My suggestion is to Network. Reach out to as many different agencies that offer help or guidance with these medical issues. Better to make 2 dozen calls and visits and not get the help you want than to not do this and maybe not get the help because you did not ask the right person or agency.

  11. olds mo william says:

    Checkout planetdrugsdirect.com.

  12. kimh81 says:

    I had to declare bankruptcy due to cancer. This isn’t how it’s supposed to be. My heart breaks for those two. Choosing death over money…..smdh

  13. its crazy, and has been since aca. i know 59 year old couples that are paying out 3800 per month for health insurance with an 8 thousand deductible. How is it even possible, and for how long before they have nothing.

    • FaCubeItches says:

      That’s how the government goes about reducing headcount. It’s not terribly subtle, but it works.

  14. SgtBob says:

    Thank God and the U.S. military for Tricare for life for my wife and me. Most things we pay $0. As a young soldier, that stuff didn’t mean anything. If we had to pay for everything, most likely we would have died a few years back. I have two kids retired and one scheduled in four years. They’re good, too.

  15. fjord says:

    A lot is said about how great the economy is doing, but if you ever happen to have some free time to read Charles Hugh Smith who writes at oftwomindsblog Please do.

    the current monopolistic system and obamacare are taking the entire economy down, Trump tax cuts or not. lower unemployment rate (not that I believe anything the gummint tells us)

    what has gone on, will not go on forever.

    https://www.oftwominds.com/blogmar17/sickcare-broken3-17.html

    • fjord says:

      Karl denninger is another one, but at least CHS doesn’t speak to his readers like they are ignorant pieces of shit.
      .

      • JNorth says:

        ROFL, you have that one right, that and he’s going to blow a valve one of these days.

    • FaCubeItches says:

      “what has gone on, will not go on forever. ”

      While that is true, without an accurate time estimate on when it stops, it’s nothing but a platitude. Yes, *some day* it will all come crashing down, but the problem is that it could be tomorrow or it could be 50 years (or more) from now, which makes planning for it rather difficult. It also gives the people who should be fixing it little incentive to do so, because that would require unpopular measures *now*, and there’s every chance that the plates will keep spinning until after they’ve left office/retired, etc.

  16. Sanders says:

    My wife’s migraine meds, the only ones that work for her, used to be $32/pill – in Mexico. They were about $80/ea. here. A local hospital had what they called a “Sample Pharmacy”, which we were able to get the medicine for free, but it was hit and miss if they had it in stock and it was first come, first serve. Fortunately, my wife’s prescription is so obscure that we were always able to get them.

    Then a generic came on the market that our insurance covered. Even then, the copay is top tier.

  17. dirtroadlivin says:

    I kind of felt compelled to comment on a cpl of levels. First, this is utterly heartbreaking. Some good suggestions above with regard to GoodRX and calling the doc. I am a physician, 20 yrs. I gotta tell you other than extremely high powered sub-specialists, docs DO NOT get kickbacks. Maybe a decade or two ago there was some of that going on, but I do not know of one in the trenches physician that is getting rewarded to prescribe more expensive meds. That being said, the literature and studies are often slanted by big pharm, and the often leave out the most important “number needed to treat”, meaning thousands may need to be treated to see benefit in one person. That is wrong, and it is ongoing. Some docs are scared to use older but effective meds because a bad outcome will be blamed on not using the latest and greatest, whether it was a factor or not. A lot that have or do practice in rural areas realize we need to work with what we have, and most folks do their best to do so. The system is horribly fucked up. It has been almost wholly “corporitzed” with the ability of squeezing the nickel until the buffalo shits being the highest rewarded behavior. Almost all docs now employed by hospital or other corporate entity, and it is not helping the patients. Sorry for the rant. I enjoy the site, the comments, and the insights from time to time.

    • I take a med that I have been taking since 1991. Back then, the cost was about 4 dollars a month and that was total and not a co-pay. Back then several companies made this drug.

      Now, only one does. It is long off patent restrictions. Because there is only one supplier the cost for my co-pay for 3 months is what I used to pay for an entire year and that is without insurance.

      There is no doubt in my mind that the drug companies operate so that they can maximize profits by not competing by producing similar meds when they are out of patent protection and those that are still ‘new’ and enjoy patent protection allow them to charge a very high cost for these meds.

      Government control of policies has done nothing t decrease costs to the insureds. By costs I am talking about both premiums and co-pays. My insurance co-pays have risen significantly in the last 5 years and the premium for the insurance has done nothing but go up.

      I fear that like many other industries the government getting involved has made things far worse. The magic cost controls of Obamacare were a lie unless the goal was to get all old people off of insurance by giving them a pill to make them comfortable and then only insuring healthy young people. I knew better than to even think for one millisecond that government could make health insurance better and these idiots calling for single payer medicare for all have no clue what is in waiting for them if that ever happens. Well, they will find out when they are old enough to use medicare.

  18. CC says:

    Check out Canadian pharms.
    Roughly 1/2 the cost, or better, over US prices.
    Delivered to your door.
    https://www.northwestpharmacy.com/

  19. Wayne Wilson says:

    Some drug companies have plan to help out .My Brilinta costs me about $30 every 3 months with plan from Extra Zenica . Would be $300 a month without the help .

  20. Cederq says:

    I am in the same boat as a lot of folks here. I am a diabetic due to a infarct in my LAD in my heart that also caused an infarct in my pancreas. I use U-500 insulin in a Insulin pump which has greatly stabilized my blood glucose levels. A 20ml vial of U-500 Insulin is over $1800.00 and I go through one in about 5 weeks. An insulin that is produced in bio reactors by using bacteria and there is no patent on it and it costs that much. Being an old nurse like a few of the commentators above I am harder to bamboozle and BS about “New” meds where I know an old one works just fine and it is cheaper. I too do a lot of research and casting about to find deals and cheaper prices and shop doctors. Like McFee above I am too a damnably cruddy curmudgeon and not afraid to offer my attitude and humble opinions.

  21. Bert says:

    Hey gang, not to worry: Bernie’s working on it.

    Bernie? Bernie? Where are you, Bernie?

  22. Spin Drift says:

    Kenny, know that there are a bunch of people who like to read what you write and really like your Miss Lisa for putting up with your curmudgeonly old ass and the fact that you saved Jack. Don’t be surprised if a little gas, dog food and ammo money shows up in the PO box.

    Spin
    Hit the couch cushions people, and help a dude out.

  23. DRJH says:

    have zero savings medicine money over the years for several of us

  24. Miles Long says:

    I wonder how many threatening calls the old folks got from the collection agency. Some of these assholes are ruthless lying bastards just trying to get payment.

  25. CarlS says:

    For those of us 62 or older using Social Security benefits before they disappear, look into the Blue Cross Blue Shield Sapphire Medicare Advantage Paln, which replaces Soc. Security Health Benefits. There is no – no – premium; Soc Sec. Part B deduction covers the cost. Advantages are many, including medical, dental, vision, Hoime Health . . . Drugs are as follows:

    Prescription Drugs –
    The chart below shows all of your benefits for all covered services. You can also see a summary view of your benefits for the most commonly used services at view summary of your benefits.

    Prescription Drug Non-Preferred Brand In-Network
    Copays: $97
    Deductibles: $0
    You Pay: 0%
    PREFERRED PHARMACY TIER 4 (30 DAY SUPPLY)- $92 COPAY STANDARD PHARMACY TIER 4 (30 DAY SUPPLY) – $97 COPAY

    Prescription Drug Generic In-Network
    Copays: $6
    Deductibles: $0
    You Pay: 0%
    PREFERRED PHARMACY TIER 1 (30 DAY SUPPLY)- $1 COPAY STANDARD PHARMACY TIER 1 (30 DAY SUPPLY)- $6 COPAY PREFERRED PHARMACY TIER 2 (30 DAY SUPPLY)- $10 COPAY STANDARD PHARMACY TIER 2 (30 DAY SUPPLY)-$15 COPAY

    Prescription Drug Preferred Brand In-Network
    Copays: $47
    Deductibles: $0
    You Pay: 0%
    PREFERRED PHARMACY TIER 3 (30 DAY SUPPLY)- $42 COPAY STANDARD PHARMACY TIER 3 (30 DAY SUPPLY)- $47 COPAY

    Prescription Drug Non-Preferred Brand Out-of-Network
    Copays: $97
    Deductibles: $0
    You Pay: 0%
    PRESCRIPTION DRUGS FILLED AT AN OUT OF NETWORK PHARMACY ARE ONLY COVERED IN CERTAIN SITUATIONS. PLEASE REFER TO CHAPTER 5 SECTION 2.5 IN THE EVIDENCE OF COVERAGE FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION.

    Prescription Drug Generic Out-of-Network
    Copays: $6
    Deductibles: $0
    You Pay: 0%
    PRESCRIPTION DRUGS FILLED AT AN OUT OF NETWORK PHARMACY ARE ONLY COVERED IN CERTAIN SITUATIONS. PLEASE REFER TO CHAPTER 5 SECTION 2.5 IN THE EVIDENCE OF COVERAGE FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION.

    Prescription Drug Preferred Brand Out-of-Network
    Copays: $47
    Deductibles: $0
    You Pay: 0%
    PRESCRIPTION DRUGS FILLED AT AN OUT OF NETWORK PHARMACY ARE ONLY COVERED IN CERTAIN SITUATIONS. PLEASE REFER TO CHAPTER 5 SECTION SECTION 2.5 IN THE EVIDENCE OF COVERAGE FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION.

    There are similar plans from other providers.

    / end /

    • Wirecutter says:

      Blue Cross/Blue Shield Sapphire Plan is what she’s on, but she hit the limit on prescriptions, so now she’s in a ‘gap period’ and instead of a co-pay, we have to pay something like 30% of the drug cost.

  26. the other other Andrew says:

    What Wayne Wilson said.

    Also, the big pharma companies have some help for people on fixed income. It’s a bitch to find the info, but it’s out there.

    Check with your local church or senior center.

    Hang in there. Know how you feel, man. Financially screwed, too.

  27. whynot says:

    Some resources….

    https://www.webmd.com/healthy-aging/patient-assistance-programs-for-prescription-drugs#1

    https://www.medicare.gov/pharmaceutical-assistance-program/

    https://www.rxassist.org/ click the “Patient Center”

    https://www.pfizerrxpathways.com/ for drugs made by Pfizer

    https://www.gskforyou.com/ for drugs made by GlaxoSmithKline

    http://www.janssenprescriptionassistance.com/ for drugs by Jansenn (Johnson & Johnson)

    https://www.cms.gov/Medicare/Coordination-of-Benefits-and-Recovery/Prescription-Drug-Assistance-Programs/Overview.html another medicare assistance program

    https://www.needymeds.org/ Can’t vouch for this one, not familiar with it

    Talk with the social workers at your local hospital, they’re there to help. And it cuts down on readmissions to hospitals which they (hospitals) are penalized for (at least federal dollars, MCare, MCaid)

  28. Storytellet says:

    I am 72.She had a liver transplant (cancer). I am still working f\t. Trump lowered med prices by 13%. Pharmacare just raised prices by 10x. Ten times. From 24 dollars a script to 211 dollars a script. She has 6 different meds. I don’t see retirement and where in my future.

  29. Rick T says:

    Before you go whole-hog for GoodRX read what this pharmacist has to say about the program:
    http://crazyrxman.blogspot.com/2019/07/10-reasons-why-your-pharmacist-hates.html

    You are giving all your medical information to a company that will SELL it to the highest bidder.

    • dirtroadlivin says:

      Rick T, thanks for posting this. Not really a surprise I guess but still important for folks to know.

  30. Eric says:

    Pfft… Medical care Americans can afford? No, no, Congress is worrying about what’s important! #IllegalsFirst

  31. Tim says:

    Have you looked into seeing if you can get Medicaid?

Play nice.