Texas Teacher Dies After Being Unable to Afford $116 Prescription

Heather Holland was a second grade teacher who taught at Ikard Elementary School in North Texas. About a week ago, she fell ill with the flu — yet another person in the United States impacted by this particularly tough flu season. Over the weekend, Holland suddenly died when her illness rapidly worsened.

But this tragedy might have been preventable.

As Holland’s husband, Frank, explains, she had visited a doctor who gave her a prescription. However, Holland delayed picking up the prescription; it required a $116 copay, which she and her husband could not afford.

When Frank saw that his wife’s condition was declining, he scraped together the money and went to the pharmacy. Sadly, by then it was too late, and Holland’s illness had already advanced. Holland ended up at the hospital, and she passed away less than two days later.

Heather Holland leaves behind two children, a 7-year-old son and a 10-year-old daughter.

Administrators from Holland’s school say her students were stunned by their teacher’s sudden death. Her husband says his wife “loved helping people, helping the kids and the kids loved her.”

While it’s impossible to know whether or not the prescription would have saved Holland’s life, the medication would’ve given her a fighting chance, at the very least.

Many are understandably wondering why Holland’s death came about this way. Why didn’t she pay for the prescription immediately?

Simply put, for many U.S. families, a sudden expense of $116 can be difficult to manage. In Texas, the average salary for a public school teacher with Holland’s experience – four years — is roughly $30,000. To put this in perspective, the current federal poverty line is $25,100 for a household of four.

Holland’s death also begs another question: Why was this potentially life-saving prescription so terribly expensive, even though part of the cost was covered by insurance? Perhaps just importantly, why didn’t her insurance cover the whole cost of the medicine?

This sad incident reveals serious problems that the U.S. has failed to address. Teachers are one of the most important professions in our society. Why, then, are many teachers so poorly compensated in the United States?

And from a different angle, it’s clear to see how the profiteering that’s been allowed to define virtually all aspects of health care in the U.S. can leave someone like Holland dead from a treatable illness. Why can a pharmaceutical company legally inflate the costs of crucial medicines to the point that they are out of reach for those who truly need them?

The failure of Holland’s insurance — which is administered jointly by Aetna and CVS Caremark, both corporations — to pay fully for her prescription further illustrates this problem. Assuming Holland had coverage that extended to the rest of her family, she was spending roughly between $1,100 and $1,780 yearly, yet she was still expected to pony up $116 for her prescription.

The circumstances that resulted in Holland’s untimely death are almost wholly non-existent in other industrialized nations — especially not those with the levels of wealth that the U.S. boasts. American lives are being lost all too often because U.S. policymakers — and many of their constituents — refuse to push for the commonsense steps needed to make a meaningful change and save people like Heather Holland.

Photo Credit: Mike Mozart/Flickr

66 comments

Marie W
Marie W4 months ago

Thanks

SEND
Belinda Lang
Belinda Lang9 months ago

Heather Holland's death is both sad and outrageous. The co-pay for the medicine should have been nowhere near $116.

SEND
Chrissie R
Chrissie R9 months ago

Thank you for posting.

SEND
Anne F
Anne F9 months ago

how sad

SEND
Janis K
Janis K9 months ago

Agree with Freya!

SEND
Freya H
Freya H9 months ago

What kind of society allows this to happen? The fact that a teacher and her husband together could not afford $116 for life-saving medicine reveals a lot of things wrong with our society - not just the greed of for-profit health care systems, but just how underpaid teachers are. To those who see nothing wrong, I say: Explain your opinions right to the faces of two kids who will grow up without their mommy - and to the face of the grieving widower.

SEND
Elaine D
Elaine D9 months ago

Thank you

SEND
M Q
M Q9 months ago

Very sad. So sad for the family, kids left without a Mom.

SEND
kathy bonard
kathy bonard9 months ago

Dreadful news.We should appreciate our NHS service in England.People moan about it but I think doctors,nurses etc do a great job with limited resources.RIP Heather,you are now free from pain,very sad for your family that are left.

SEND
GGmaSheila D
Sheila D9 months ago

Under the current POTUS, his cronies and Congress this will only get worse.

SEND