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I’m sick, again

So it’s meant lots of fluids for me–hello water, tea and juice, an earlier bedtime and a new round of antibiotics. It’s also meant giving up caffeine (and alcohol) for 10 days. The alcohol thing, no problem. The coffee? Ug. That’s a different story.

You know what’s worse than being sick? Being sick and not being able to drink coffee. That’s what.

Okay actually, it’s probably being sick and not having insurance. (Sorry coffee.)

I’m lucky to have great health insurance at ACS. I have world wide coverage and after a low deductible, basically everything is covered. I pay out of pocket and then I am reimbursed upon submitting my receipts. The whole thing is pretty straightforward and for that I am incredibly thankful.

Especially given the fact that I’ve racked up a few hundred leva in visits to the doctor and prescriptions.

Two days ago, I went to fill my prescription at my neighborhood pharmacy and they only had half the medicine that I needed. As in half the number of pills I needed for two different prescriptions.  I guess these things happen in a country where no one actually counts pills for a prescription out and where the pharmacy is happy to open boxes and sell single sheets of pills (or cough drops or aspirin).

Anyhow, I was desperate to start the new antibiotics, I didn’t feel well and I was doing the whole exchange in Bulgarian. So when it became clear that they didn’t have enough in stock (I think because the medicine was expensive), I thought for sure that I wasn’t going to get any medicine. The thought of being turned out onto the street without my antibiotics was more than I could handle.

Then there was a turn of events, they would sell me what they had and I could come back tomorrow for the rest. Okay. I can live with that. The pharmacist rings of the medicine and the total is pretty expensive.  I ask for a “faktura” (an official, formal receipt). She tells me no and then launches in a big formal explanation that I do not understand.

So I stand there with my money trying not to cry and wondering how many expats/foreigners are brought to tears each year in foreign pharmacies.

Now of course I have no idea what’s being said to me. I explain in Bulgarian that I don’t understand. The explanation starts over again. Only this time more slowly. Still not happening. This leads to me doing something I haven’t had to do in a very long time: call a friend to translate.

It works. I’ll pay for the medicine they have now, I’ll come back tomorrow for the rest and then they’ll make me a faktura for the whole thing. Apparently they can’t make two different fakturas for the same prescription.

So I paid for the first half of the prescription. When I left the pharmacy without any proof of purchase–not a little receipt or anything–I figured that I was never going to get a faktura for the first half of my prescription. This of course means that I won’t be able to get reimbursed by insurance for this purchase either.

When I went back yesterday, things seemed even less hopeful–neither of the two women who had waited on me the day before at the pharmacy were there. Great. Still I waited in line.

And you know what? I got to the front of the line explained what happened yesterday in Bulgarian and she said, okay I understand. Then she filled the second half of my prescription and wrote out a faktura for me covering everything.

Amazing.

4 Responses to “I’m sick, again”

  1. Elena says:

    Poor Carolyn!Get better as quickly as possible;)

  2. Nancy says:

    Hi Karolinka,
    I’m coming to Bulgaria in August as a new Fulbrighter. I found your blog because I was worried about how to get prescriptions. Would you know if they honor prescriptions from U.S. doctors?
    Hope you’re on the mend.

    • karolinka says:

      @Nancy Congrats on winning a Fulbright. You shouldn’t have a problem getting the prescriptions that you need in Bulgaria. Often if you know the name of the drug that you want you can even buy the medicine without it–say birth control. If for some reason the drug isn’t available in Bulgaria this might be a problem but my basic sense is that “standard” prescription drugs are readily available in BG. This said, it’s incredibly inexpensive to see a doctor in Bulgaria even at a private clinic so even if you did need a Bulgarian prescription this shouldn’t be a problem. I of course would stock up before I got to Bulgaria for a month or two so that it wasn’t the first thing that you were worrying about but I expect you’ll be just fine.

  3. The nomad says:

    Thanks for the post. I’m moving to Varna for the summer. I’m about to run out of my birth control prescriptions and was wondering about birth control in Bulgaria. Can I get it over the counter? I can’t get it reasonably at the moment since I don’t have insurance. So i need to explore all my possibilities! Thanks!

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