With no government paycheck, Wis. woman rations her insulin

A political party has been so effective at demonizing government that it’s asking a lot anymore to expect sympathy for the innocent victims of the collapse of a functioning government — government workers.

But that doesn’t mean Mallory Lorge Bischoff’s story isn’t an appropriate reminder that beneath most headlines, there is a human story to consider.

Bischoff, who lives in River Falls, Wis., is diabetic and she’s almost out of insulin. Last week she had two vials of insulin left, NBC News says. She didn’t use them even though she should have. She’s rationing her medicine because she’s an administrative assistant for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Bloomington, hasn’t been paid, and can’t afford the $300 a month copay.

There, are, of course, several stories here: the effect of the shutdown, the soaring cost of insulin, and the fact that in today’s world, many people are one paycheck away from hard times.

The shutdown arrived last month about the same time as the newlywed’s first medical bills came in.

“I can’t afford to go to the ER. I can’t afford anything. I just went to bed and hoped I’d wake up,” she said.

“It’s like being held hostage,” Bischoff tells NBC. “I’ve been a federal employee for six years, and I love it. I don’t get paid much, but I love working for the American people. That the government has put us in this position is like a punch in the gut.”

Her husband, Ross, is working overtime to help ends meet. A loan payment is due this week. And there’s that insulin that’s running out.

“You got hopes and dreams and then stuff like this kind of puts it on the back burner now,” she said. “My husband and I were talking and saying, ‘Let’s just worry about each day. We can’t worry about our dreams now.’”

Related: Life, Death, and Insulin (Washington Post)

  • Barton

    I know many diabetics commenting on the cost of insulin at the start of each year (until they meet their deductibles for insurance – many do meet their deductibles well before before March because of the costs, same with a friend with MS who has already met her out of pocket max for the year b/c of the cost of her drugs). And to be basically laid off at this time (in the old fashioned sense of a car manufacturing job where they’d stop production for a while and lay off workers, getting them back once the line was up and running again, not the current meaning of your job being eliminated), concerned about how you are going to pay your bills AND get your life-preserving drugs, it makes one very sweary.

    I have heard of friends who are thinking about making the run to Canada to get insulin at reasonable cost then transport it back. Crossing the border for life-preserving drugs. It really does make one very sweary.

  • Jack

    The whole cost of medicine is crazy. My employer changed health and prescription plans at the beginning of the year. Pharmacy ran them through as no insurance. When they reran them under the new plan, it was $400 less. Talk about a wake-up call for my spouse who takes them.

  • I’m a T2 in remission. I’ve had to had to use, and ration insulin. I know all too well how stressful and dangerous it is. Her fear is palpable. The fact that she has to go to bed at night hoping just to wake up in the morning is infuriating. Everyone should be angered over this. This administration has willfully turned a blind eye to the very real, and very life threatening realities their push for a monument to a megalomaniac has caused. It is criminal in its malice.

  • I wish Congress worked for us instead of corporations and one percenters. If it were so, we would already have Medicare for all with negotiated drug pricing.

  • Mike Worcester

    Early on in the shutdown I was seeing chatter on social media about how folks were not seeing any impacts, especially ones that directly affected them, so what was the big deal? Yes, it takes a bit for those impacts to become apparent. You know, like the piles of garbage, unpaid airport security and traffic controllers, and now people who cannot afford life-saving meds. Are you seeing the impacts now people?

    (And I am thankful every day that — for now — I am not insulin dependent.)

    • >>Early on in the shutdown I was seeing chatter on social media about how folks were not seeing any impacts, especially ones that directly affected them, so what was the big deal?<<

      I saw the same…or that the only ones affected were "welfare queens"…

      I had to "remind" them that besides the well-known TSA and Coast Guard employees toiling with no paycheck, Air Traffic Controllers are also going without pay.

      Let that sink in for a while.

      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

      “I can’t afford to go to the ER. I can’t afford anything. I just went to bed and hoped I’d wake up,” she said

      This is terrifying and should NEVER happen.

  • jon

    Medicine costs to much in the US… Given.
    We shouldn’t have shut down the government as a political stunt to placate fox news and the presidents base… Given.
    We shouldn’t have people living paycheck to paycheck… Given.

    We’ve got 3 wrongs, two of them are clearly at the feet of people in DC, regulations on the medical industry should ensure reasonable prices instead of the “Free market + monopoly” approach we’ve been pushing so far… and the government shouldn’t even be shut down…

    But, that third one bothers me… it’s not clearly a regulatory issue… I mean rising productivity and flat wage growth for decades doesn’t help… but even decades ago when automation first started pushing manufacturing jobs out, people found themselves in this same situation… people will increase their standard of living to match their earnings… how do we get people to start having a few months reserve? Particularly when the idea of people saving money sends the markets into a tizzy (which makes it harder to save…)

    I’ve heard it said we should teach finances in schools so kids know how to handle money and that they should be saving etc… but Civics has been on most states standard for jr. high/high school for decades and how many americans can name 3 branches of government?

    I’ve got no proposed solutions, and I could rail against the other two issues and I probably have either here or else where at some point… but that 3rd issue… it seems like something we could actually do something about as individuals, and create a more stable environment for ourselves which might allow us to focus more on fixing the other two issues… (heck financially stable people probably already help reduce healthcare costs by being able to afford preventative care)

    • Brian Simon

      It’s pretty simple, really. For the last 30-some years, our society has been slowly changing to sort gains into the hands of a few. We used to reward hard work. Now hard work isn’t enough to get ahead.

    • refereemn77

      In my twenties, I couldn’t have fathomed having an emergency savings. But, then I lost my job and learned really quickly. Now, I have enough to cover three months of bills, but should probably have six months in reserve.

      I believe the same thing goes to something I’ve heard many times on MPR from guest Ruth Hayden – paying for things for our kids when we shouldn’t. You want to help pay for college, but how much do you have saved for retirement? I’m 41, and I’m filling my 401(k) with the thought that there won’t be or won’t be enough Social Security when I retire. But, so many don’t think that far ahead. I know I didn’t in my twenties, and barely in my early thirties. I’ve still got time to put enough away, but at 50+ years old trying to put a kid through college with only $50-$100k saved for retirement is crazy. I’ve heard the argument that the parent just wants the kid to not have to start life after college with all of that debt. That’s just nonsense. The kid has the rest of their life to pay that debt – as the parent, there’s a lot less time to do that.

      I guess it comes down to this: generally speaking, we (Americans) are really bad with our finances. I’m not sure what the answer might be…

      • jon

        So, after festering on it a bit…

        On the “wellness program” for work, that you need to participate in or they charge you more for health insurance, they asked about regular health checkup things, (dentist, doctors, etc.) but they also asked about financial planners, if I’d seen one in the last year…

        Now my health insurance doesn’t cover financial planners as “preventative care” but maybe it, or something like it, should…

        Something where you can see a financial planner on an annual(?) basis, and it’s just covered, and more urgent visits…

        Maybe tying it to healthcare isn’t a great idea (or maybe it is, since most people who run into significant financial trouble in this country end up there because of health problems), but something where financial planners are seen as more of a doctor type visits, maybe even covered by employers? (though given that the time you are most likely to need one is when your employer isn’t your employer any more maybe that’s a bad plan)…. but it seems like there have to be some organizations out there that have a vested interest in keeping me financially viable for the long term willing to pay for at least some percentage of this…

        • refereemn77

          I like this… just make it another benefit that’s offered. One annual visit of up to two hours maybe with a certified financial planner. I suspect it doesn’t cost very much, but if it’s not just part of the benefits package, so many won’t do anything.

        • BJ

          My old company had our 401K manager in every quarter and with that visit would do 15 minute 1 on 1 with anyone and would be open ended conversation.

  • Kassie

    On one hand, this SUCKS and she shouldn’t be in this situation. On the other hand, she should pay for the $300 for the insulin and not make the loan payment or house payment. Health is more important than credit. Credit can be rebuilt, but if she dies, that’s forever. Ultimately, this is short term and she will be back at work at some point. Many creditors will understand this.

    • jon

      There is clearly a need for financial advisors, particularly for people who can’t or don’t think they can afford one…

      For advice like you give, and depending on the situation doing things that would generally be ill advised but might make sense in a situation like this, like short term loans, or loans against retirement accounts, or even taking money out of retirement accounts and taking the tax hit because of it… I mean no amount of retirement account is going to help if you are going to bed wondering if you’ll wake up in the morning…

      • Kassie

        I used to give this kind of advice to people all the time when I worked in the welfare office and ahead of potential State Shutdowns. Like, rent has to be paid, because they can evict you pretty quickly, but mortgages take a long time to get someone kicked out, so they aren’t as urgent. Utilities also take a long time to be cut off, many can’t be cut off in winter, and often don’t report to credit agencies. Always use a credit union, they are more likely to work with you. During the State shutdown, those connected to the state, like Affinity Plus, offered up deals for state employees proactively. If you are paying car insurance every six months and it is due, switch to monthly to have less due.

  • Postal Customer

    Wish somebody in the media would forcefully: (1) remind Trump and the Republicans that their party controlled congress for two years and did not build the wall; and (2) ask them why he could not get the wall built under those circumstances. They had two years.

  • nipper

    How can I help her?

  • AmiSchwab

    there are so many things wrong with this picture i don’t even know where to start.
    a healthcare system that doesn’t even cover life necessary drugs.
    a congress and president who want to sabotage healthcare even more.
    a president who doesn’t give a f— if his citizens are are being paid for their work.
    and all this in “the greatest nation in the world”.
    and an awful lot of fellow citizens who say it doesn’t affect me.
    something is sriously wrong in america.

    • americanjoe1776

      Democrats are what is wrong with America.

  • americanjoe1776

    I am 100% disabled I was informed that medicare would no longer pay for my Insulin. The cost for my monthly meds runs about $3,500 a month. I worked all my life and paid into this fuckin government Only to have the democrats screw up everything. I had a great medical plan and then obama got his UNAFFORDABLE CARE PLAN passed. Now I have to decide if I buy insulin , pay for heating oil or buy food.

    • Can you quote the letter because Medicare doesn’t get a choice whether to pay the 80% for your prescriptions. Something is not right here. It’s possible your Part didn’t plan is using a new formulary, but not all plans are the same and Part D is through private companies. What company are you using?

      Obamacare and Medicare are different things.

      My guess is with the start of a new year, you’re also resetting your yearly deductible.