A senior citizen laments

By Herbert Vego

ON the day I turned 60, I never felt the excitement of peers applying for a senior citizen’s card.  I could not seem to accept the reality that I had gone old.

In fact, I was already 62 when I stopped being “in denial” and went to the Office of Senior Citizens Affairs (OSCA) at the Iloilo City Hall for an ID, finally finding excitement in having to eat meals in posh restaurants at discounted prices.

“Enjoy your discount privileges,” an OSCA clerk quipped while handing me my discount ID.

I had planned to eat lunch in a hotel but ended up in a doctor’s clinic instead because of a sore throat. He prescribed an expensive antibiotic.

“Senior, Sir?” his secretary asked me before writing the discounted doctor’s fee, as if she doubted whether I was.

“I wish I were not,” I answered. “Younger people have more fun.”

I bought the prescribed med at a drugstore and walked home with an empty wallet.

If you are one of us senior citizens, you would not always welcome the privilege of “enjoying” discounts on prescription drugs and hospital confinements.

If it’s any consolation, I have learned to grin and bear my latest heartache known as “cardiomegaly,” thankful that it does not require surgery.

But do we have a better choice whenever the need to be dependent on “maintenance” arises? The most we can do is minimize our afflictions at the least possible cost by following the advice of Hippocrates: “Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.”  He knew the healing properties of nutrition-rich fruits and vegetables.

For the poor retirees or those with no more income to lean on, this means relying on well-off children, grandchildren or charitable institutions.

The better-off old men who had been poor and deprived in their younger years could only wish they were young again to enjoy what had been denied them.

Despite the discounts, it’s not really true that we are envied. There is no fun lying in the hospitals that dry us out of funds. At this point, we seem to be at the mercy of an armed robber asking, “Money, or life?”

Thus, we would rather be free from diseases in order to use hard-earned savings for food, clothing, shelter and other pleasurable ends – say, travelling to meet long-lost relatives, friends and classmates in other places. OMG, many of them are now in Kingdom Come!

But of course, the non-seniors flatter us for being “luckier” because, with a doctor’s prescription, we are entitled to a 20 percent discount on medicines, as well as value-added tax (VAT) exemption. Summing up, that’s almost a 30-percent cut on the original price.

Under the law (RA 9247), in addition to drug discounts, we are supposed to be entitled to free medical, dental, diagnostic and laboratory services in all government facilities. But they are not always available.

And since it’s never comfortable waiting in line for an hour or more, we are forced to patronize private alternatives.

Unfortunately, a doctor’s consultation fee could be costlier than the price of the prescribed drug.

Adding insult to injury, when queuing before a teller in any branch of a giant pharmaceutical chain, we “young once” spend longer waiting time than the young ones. Eh kasi we need to show an OSCA ID, a doctor’s prescription and a senior citizens’ booklet for discount’s sake.

The smaller drugstores circumvent the law by tagging higher prices on medicines sold to senior citizens so that, when discounted, they don’t reflect the true discount. Their excuse is that, unlike the big retailers, they buy the same products in smaller quantities at higher wholesale prices.

There are also pharmacies that do not sell the cheaper generic versions intentionally because they earn more from pushing the branded ones.

They are also good at finding “defects”. There was a time when a sales lady would not honor my senior citizen’s ID just because my doctor had written only the antibiotic’s brand name on the prescription sheet, omitting its generic name.

Rather than get angry and die of hypertension, I walked out to find a friendlier drugstore.

Thank God. At 73, I am still alive, kicking, and writing for a living.