Diagnosed with MS and all I wanted was a free TV- I don’t know about other parts of the world, but here in Canada there is a rewards program for consumers called, “Air Miles.” (Why it is in miles and not kilometres I do not know, but using the term ‘miles’ in the name is misleading anyway.) The program which must have started sometime in the early 90’s, allows businesses to sign up for the reward program and give consumers who are also members reward miles for every dollar spent. Where it is misleading is that approximately $10-20 gets you one air mile (depending on the member business). However, these miles certainly don’t equate to actual travel miles. For example, I used roughly 5,000 miles about two years ago to purchase an Android tablet from the Air Miles online store. This same tablet would retail for between $300-$350. If you can find me a return flight to anywhere decent from Edmonton for $350, I’m all ears. I can guarantee there isn’t a 5,000 mile trip available. However, if you are a person with MS and on medication, this program is actually not bad because of the cost of the prescriptions.
Granted, I don’t pay for my prescription. A combination of my work healthcare (takes care of user fee, $25) and government insurance (covers the prescription amount $1400) covers the over $1400 monthly tab. I go to the Safeway Pharmacy to fill my prescription because they offer Air Miles. Due to the high cost and some special programs at Safeway, each time I pick up my prescription I receive 458 Air Miles. There is a TV I want listed on the Air Miles online store I have been saving for and it varies between 9500-11,000 Air Miles. I’m almost there, but now it looks as though the Alberta College in charge of pharmacists is going to take my TV away from me. Their reasoning is that incentives to get me to pick up prescribed medication may damage my health. Apparently I may delay filling my prescription to take advantage of bonus days. By that logic, I should consider jumping in front of a bus so that I could get prescribed pain killers and even more reward miles!
When news of this decision came in April, I was listening to the local news radio station and callers were insinuating that their tax dollars were somehow subsidizing my new TV. Come again? I pay my health premiums like everyone else and while I feel the cost of my medication is ridiculous (it is more than my monthly mortgage payment), the cost is not my fault. It is the businesses who offer Air Miles who pay for the program, not the taxpayer. Obviously, dollars generated by sales which lead to Air Miles reward miles indirectly pay for the program, but that is the choice of the business owner in a competitive marketplace. I understand with regards to prescription drugs there could be a perceived ethical ‘grey area’ with regards to reward programs, but I don’t really see why. The drug companies make money and so do the pharmacies, why shouldn’t the sick people derive some benefit too? To the smaller pharmacies who are crying poor (because that is what this is really all about), in a free market system you have the ability and choice to offer options to your customers in a competitive marketplace. Don’t you comrade? To those healthy people who complain that the practice isn’t fair or that these points programs are some sort of tax payer sponsored subsidy, I have a deal for you; I’ll give you my MS and you can have my rewards points. Deal?
Until next time,