Sky’s the limit


I’m just a bit annoyed at the moment. For the second time, allowing my Pride Go-Chair travel scooter to sit idle for a couple of weeks resulted in the batteries self discharging completely. Because of the type they are (sealed gel cell), once they reach a certain low level, there’s no recovering them. They cannot be recharged. Oh, I suppose a battery shop with all sorts of fancy equipment could refurbish them, but a regular guy like me stands no chance. I went through this before when the scooter was a mere month old. I was sent off to Seattle for radiation treatment and returned to find my brand new scooter deader than Genghis Khan.

The VA, who provided the scooter, sent me down to a local health equipment store that was an authorized Pride repair facility and they replaced the dual batteries for a mere $300 and only $20 of it was labor. I’m so very glad the VA picked up the tab on that one. Anyway, a few weeks ago my scooter got unplugged from the keep-alive charger somehow and by the time I noticed (sound of raspberry ensues). Like the name of the movie: Dead Again. Knowing what it cost the last time, I was decidedly unhappy.

This time, what with the warranty dead anyway, I decided to disassemble the battery pack myself and see if I might be able to replace the batteries myself. It turned out to be an easy process. Ten machine screws later, I was looking at the two 12 volt batteries which, connected in series, makes the 24 volts the scooter runs on. Out into cyberspace I went, searching for replacement Pride batteries. The cheapest I could find were $225 for the pair. Yikes.

I took a closer look and measured the physical size of eac battery and then went off to a few online battery stores looking for sealed gel cell 12amp hour 12 volt batteries that were 5x6x7 inches in size. I found quite a few but ended up buying a pair of 20 amp hour batteries that fit the bill nicely. The total cost was $61 including UPS ground shipping. MUCHO GRANDE BETTERO!  I called Pride and after weaseling and snivelling for a few minutes got them to admit that yes, they’d work just fine –and the added amp hours would increase the range some.  An investment of a little time definitely paid off. I then called a local battery store to ask if I could dump them off to them, since you can’t really chuck batteries in the trash for environmental reasons. Not only would they take them, but they offered me $5 each as a ‘core return’ charge. They said they would likely rebuild them. That meant that my battery replacement was now a mere $51. woo hoo!

Subject change: The other day I was wondering how much money the VA was saving me by providing for my prescription fees. I found a website that listed out national pharmacies and did a cost comparison between them for specific drugs. I entered MORPHINE SA CONTIN 15MG and it told me that I could get them at Costco for about seven bucks. Or I could get them from Rite-Aid for $29 or Walgreen’s for $35. Holy cow! Depending on where I shopped for drugs, the VA could be saving me money or saving me a hell of a lot of money. Shame on you Rite-Aid and Walgreen’s. You profiteering SOBs are exploiting people at their most vulnerable; when they’re sick. Anyhow, I waltzed through a bunch of the drugs I use and found myself feeling tremendously grateful for the VA.

I have a chair in my shower. It has aluminum legs and a plastic seat. It was sold my Home Depot as patio furniture and I spent a whole $19 on it. I happened to notice the same exact chair at the place that fixed my scooter, selling as a shower chair with a price tag of $85. It sure looks like, but for a few companies like Costco, people really bend the customer over the barrel when it comes to pricing. What it is that causes so many to financially abuse people i their times of greatest need?  It saddens me that we, as a country, seem to feel that it’s acceptable to run roughshod over the weak and reminds me of a debate during the last presidential campaign. Ron Paul was asked if someone with no health insurance should be allowed to die and he indicated the affirmative, receiving heavy applause for the attitude.

As I studied economics in school, the discussion always centered on ‘guns n’ butter’ — a metaphor about supply and demand. The greater the demand, coupled with scarcity of product equals higher pricing. But in this case we’re talking about fear, not scarcity. There seems to be some kind of violation of the rules when it comes to health care. On a program I watched called Pitchmen, the cameras followed Billy Mays and Anthony Sullivan (but wait! There’s more!), they commented that they preferred to deal with health and fitness products. They said that Americans would pay high prices for inexpensive to make products, which translated into higher returns on their investments. As a result, most of the commercials we saw generated by these TV retailers featured home workout devices of one sort or another. One product was nothing more than a wheel with an axle sticking through it. Advertised as great for developing six pack abs, it sold for only three small payments of $39.95. That totaled about 120 bucks for something one could create easily with $10 worth of parts from any hardware store. People paid it because it dealt with health care.

No matter whether it’s a battery, a simple wheel, or ground herbs mixed with dirt, if it can be linked to health the price is multiplied tenfold and more, and is paid willingly by the masses yearning to stay young and live forever. I have to say, I think it’s a rather non-survival trend, especially considering the context. All in all, it makes me think of the anti-drug abuse campaign “Just Say No.” But it’s not that easy. However, I look at the incredible cost of chemotherapy drugs like Revlimid, costing some people in the thousands each month. It explains why so many have looked to Canada and Mexico to source their doses because never mind the cancer, the cost of trying to heal was killing them. It makes one wonder why the public stands for it, knowing the tremendous markups that occur between manufacturer and end consumer. (And with Revlimid, the acknowledged likelihood of secondary cancer.) It gets stranger and stranger the more one looks at it.

I admit I don’t get it. If we were talking about lawn and garden care, virtually nobody would tolerate the huge markups: Scissors to cut paper: $2. Scissors to trim the grass $150. When you envision it that way, it seems ridiculous. Yet when it comes to health and fitness, we will stand in line for the opportunity to be shorn like a sheep in spring.