Monthly Archives: October 2014

Until They’re Gone

There’s no better teacher than history, and one sad but true fact of a linear existence is that we often don’t realize what we have in a moment until it has passed and we have the benefit of a longer lens.
Another example of that presented itself as we said goodbye to Freda Tarbell, who lost a valiant three year battle against cancer this week.
If you are from around here, you probably heard of Freda. She started in radio in Buffalo but returned to Erie County to work for WSEE-TV as a reporter and anchor. She would later work behind the scenes as an assignment editor for WICU TV12.
Freda had a tremendous radio voice and a genuine interest not only in the news but more particularly how those events impacted people and their families.
She could do any story assigned to her but loved environmental stories the most, which in her time included covering the efforts to make Presque Isle Bay swimmable and the shoreline developable.
So it seemed like the perfect job when Freda finally left the business to do community and media relations for the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Resources.
Freda, along with colleague Carol Pella, helped form a new breed of female reporters here. They weren’t interested in being weather “bunnies” or eye candy on the anchor desk.
These were tough, smart women who earned their chops on the street.
I think it was particularly grueling yet satisfying for both of them that they came up through the glass walls and ceiling of the good ole boys’ network that still existed in newsrooms in the 1970’s.
Will Ferrell has mined comic gold making fun of that era through his Anchorman movies, but if you were a young woman growing up through it, I can’t imagine it being all that funny.
But by the end of the decade when a cub reporter like Yours Truly got started, there was no sense of historical importance among the staff.
We just went to work and there was Carol and there was Freda. I mean, didn’t every newsroom have people of that talent and depth?
It’s not until the time and sadly, even the people have passed that history teaches us what milestone moments they really were.
How often we don’t know what we have, until they’re gone.

My Six Day War

I had something of a personal Six Day War to deal with last week, a battle that reinforces my belief that large monolithic systems only work in a perfect and therefore non-existent world. When I left WSEE I also left the company’s health care plan, a change that looking back seemed hell bent on pillaging my prescription pill plan. It started with a simple request for a refill of a drug that I have taken for a number of years. I told the pharmacist that I no longer had my primary insurance and would have to use my wife’s insurance plan of which I was already a part.

“No problem,” I was told. The company’s modern computer system would simply apply the secondary plan once the primary was denied. I returned the next day.

“Yes, Mr. Bremner, we have your refill right here,” the girl in the blue smock said with a smile. “That will be $1067 dollars.”

“Am I getting a year’s worth?” I asked in shock.

“No, your insurance doesn’t cover this drug.”

So it was off to the doctor’s office nearby.

“Yes, Mr. Bremner it appears your new plan prefers a similar drug to the one you’re taking.”

“And by ‘prefer’ you mean they made a deal with that drug maker?”

“Either way we called it in and it will be ready tomorrow.”

So for the third straight day I showed up at the counter.

“We actually have your original request filled Mr. Bremner.”

“Really? Great!”

“That will be $1067.”

And the wheels on the bus go ‘round and ‘round….

“That drug is not covered.” I offered as patiently as possible. “We’ve switched to the one the company likes.”

“Oh, well that’s brand new. The company wants prior authorization from your doctor.”

I’m now into Day Four and have moved to the phone to save shoe leather.

The Day Five stop yielded a puzzled look and a mumbled apology about the order not being filled yet. It is now also the third day since I’ve been out of the medicine. Out of either one of them actually.

When the glorious Day Six arrived I was told the good news. The pharmacy had TWO prescriptions filled for me. So for the third time in six days I had to tell them that I couldn’t spend $12,000 dollars a year for one pill a day even if I won the lottery.

My last call was to my doctor.

“I take a handful of medications and don’t want to go through this every time, so why don’t we send the insurer a copy of the whole list so they will all be pre-approved?”

”I’m sorry Mr. Bremner. The system just can’t handle that. We’ll have to do it one at a time.”

Really? Go figure.