The ‘Scourge’ of Hepatitis C?



I have a friend who just hit his 55th birthday; we’ll call him Lon.

Lon, a single father of a 15-year-old daughter, met a woman online and they began dating quite steadily. The two had reached the state where sexual relations were being considered and Lon’s girlfriend asked him to take the usual menu of sexually transmitted disease (STD) tests, to assure he was infection free.

So, Lon went to an STD clinic, where the nurse asked him the usual questions and he completed the form that was needed before the tests were administered. But then, Lon – who had seen the continuous television commercials geared toward baby boomers, saying they should be tested for hepatitis C – asked whether he needed to be tested for the STD, since it was not on the list.

The nurse practitioner asked Lon whether he had ever used intravenous drugs. Lon was no angel when he was in his teens and answered that he had indeed used needles some 40 years before.

So, the test was added to the list and the results were not what he had hoped for: He had signs of hepatitis C. So, the nurse sent Lon to his doctor to get a referral to a specialist to begin treatment of the progressive – and communicable – disease.

Aside from not understanding how he could have a disease from poor decisions made nearly 40 years before, Lon was scared, very scared.

Lon had just been laid off from a job he held for 27 years and since he could not afford paid health insurance, he was on Medicaid.

The specialist put Lon through a series of tests and sent the results to the managed care association (MCO) that was connected to his Medicaid. After weeks of waiting, the results came back: The MCO would not pay for the requested drug, Harvoni, but recommended that the specialist request a second, less expensive drug called Zepatier.

Both drugs are extremely expensive, with Harvoni treatment reaching the six-figure mark.

Again, Lon went through a series of somewhat uncomfortable tests to determine if he had any liver damage, which would determine whether the specialist would be authorized to prescribe the requested drug.

Again, weeks went by and the results came in: Although the tests showed Lon had some liver scarring, he was not sick enough to be prescribed the drug.

The specialist was surprised, but no one was more surprised than Lon: He had to be sicker before he could be treated for the ailment.

The absurdity was not lost on him, nor on his specialist, who told Lon to come back in six to 12 months to see if his liver was sufficiently scarred to be treated.

The shock was overwhelming: Lon called Medicaid, the MCO and went as far as to call state authorities to get the answer to several troubling questions:

How is it you want me to get sicker with a progressive disease in order to be treated and wouldn’t it end up being more expensive if you have to treat me then? Do I have to be near death to be treated for this condition?

Let me say after doing significant research, Lon learned that both drugs are extremely expensive, even if the requests had been approved.

But then Lon got what he considered the most shocking part of the whole ordeal: The state nurse told him that even if he had private or company insurance he would still be denied, because – by state standards – he wasn’t sick enough.

At least she was honest, but that didn’t make Lon feel any better. The nurse said the ailment is fairly common and he shouldn’t be too concerned, because since hepatitis C is only transferred through blood, as long as he didn’t do anything else to damage his liver he should be alright.

But, wait a minute, if he can’t be treated until he gets worse, can he have this condition until his dying day?

The nurse had no answer.

So Lon, who has since gone back to work, has to wait. And, when Lon and his girlfriend have relations, he has to take precautions.

So, next time you see a commercial on TV to be tested for hepatitis C, be ready for a long-term ordeal.

And hours of wondering why you have to go through the strain.









Those on Your Way Up, Might Be Those on Your Way Down


I used to visit my uncle at his huge textile factory in Long Island City, N.Y. The man was owner of a well-respected company and a giant in his industrial circle.

Each morning, he would bring three cups of coffee to work: One for himself, one for his receptionist and one for the janitor.

One morning on my weekly visit, I asked him: “Why, if you own the firm are you doing this”?

His answer was simple: “Those you meet on the way up, might be the same people you meet on the way down — so get your nose out of the air!”

The answer surprised me, but taught me an important lesson: When you enter the offices of the company you work for, want to work for, or just have a scheduled meeting with an associate, always treat each person who crosses your path as if they owned the place.

We all have had bosses who treated us brutally and all have witnessed colleagues who treat the janitor as if he or she was of less importance than that boss.

Bad mistake.

Not only does it show that you have little regard for your fellow human being but — more importantly in a business situation — it shows you have little knowledge of human resources.

(We won’t even get into the first time I was referred to as “human collateral” and almost forgot the point of this post and nearly reverted to the street kid I once was.)

There is an old business axiom that goes something like this: I’d rather be respected and feared than loved.

To me, that’s a bunch of malarkey.

Most of us, barring those who are totally miserable on the job, want to make their worth known. We want to be appreciated and respected for what we do and what we bring to the table.

This does not mean you have to “love” everyone you work with or for. What it does mean — and without sound trite, or biblical — you should do onto others.

On that note, here are several lessons I have learned in my years as an employer and employee:

  • Always at least listen to what a colleague has to say — whether you agree with that person or not or whether she or he is a subordinate or a manager;
  • If you do disagree with what is being said, politely let the person know why and how the idea might be improved;
  • And finally, never demean or besmirch a person’s idea, especially in front of others.

This might seem like obvious comments, and you might not always be in the mood to have to sit through — let’s say a meeting you consider full of drivel.

But in the long run, it will serve you well.

Just ask my ex-boss, who was just fired for his negative attitude toward his employees.

All I could do was smile as I waved good-bye.

And, by the way, I bring the receptionist coffee every morning.