I spent a portion of last night at a nearby pharmacy waiting for some prescriptions to be filled to treat Mercy’s double ear infection. As I waited the “twenty-minute” hour and a half (why does it take so long to pour the medicine in the little jars???), I watched the steady stream of people in need of all sorts of medications pass through this little corner of my local Walgreens.

There was the older woman who received the news from the pharmacist that she was no longer listed as covered in their system. The woman was outraged and spewed off something about “calling her attorney”. She opted for only one of the two prescriptions she had submitted because she did not have a few hundred dollars to pay for the other.

There was the forty-something woman who could barely stand, as she hunched over apparently hugging a surgical incision. “What do they think I am made of?” she asked to a friend over the phone. “I have to go in to work tomorrow. I just got the promotion and I can’t afford to not go in.” As she got to the window, she gave the pharmacy technician her name and muttered something about them please hurrying because she just had surgery. She looked so totally miserable and captive to whatever pressures existed at her job. In a season of so many layoffs, it was understandable yet depressing to see.

Then there was the woman who was my age with the little girl clutching a pink purse. This woman spent the most time at the counter as an employee patiently walked her through a bunch of complications with having her prescriptions filled because they were covered by DSHS. While the woman had been prescribed one drug, the pharmacist informed her she would have to take a different one because it was the only one her plan covered. Not only that, but there was some other problem with her paying cash for something because of a DSHS regulation. She probably spent thirty minutes at the window trying to solve her coverage issues.

There were the others who, like me, walked in and had the computer give all the green lights. The small Asian woman. The handsome man with the shiny cell phone. Our only inconvenience was a wait.

I have never been uninsured, though I have walked through an insurance company’s attempt to deny coverage of a week-long hospital stay. Last night I was so grateful for the generous insurance coverage we receive from the Covenant denomination that is paid for by the congregation we serve. It is no small thing these days to have that kind of coverage, and my heart ached for those last night for whom every trip to the pharmacy is either a guessing game, a battle, or a humiliation.


  1. It is an amazing parade we get to watch at time, if we take the time. People who are in various situations – some of them own making, other not – all just looking for dignity and a path to some how make things right.

  2. I was in a similar waiting room at a Walgreens in Milwaukie. Isn’t it intersting to ask how we can best love people at these places of intersection.

  3. So true. I well remember my trips to the Walgreens near Good Sam in LA. The same with sorting through the myraid of non-prescription products often needed to go along with the Rx.

  4. Wow.

    Reading this and I’m so appreciative of the UK’s National Health Service. It’s not perfect, but at least we have the knowledge that should the worst happen, we can focus on getting better or helping our friend/relative to get better without the worries of how we’re going to pay for it.

  5. Amen to that! As a person with a mental illness, I thank God for what insurance coverage I do have. I saw so many folks in the psych unit put back on the streets in unsafe or barely safe circumstances.

  6. They do go through some pretty crazy hoops to do any of this stuff here. With my “insurance” a prescription was 120 bucks since they wanted me to start paying my deductible – with the generic prescription it was $4. It only took me about an hour to convince the pharmacist that they should give me the $4 drugs 🙂

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