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Rx Express -- Jean Scott -- Portland, OR
Jean Scott knows how to be frugal. She has been forced to learn. At 76, the retired Portland counselor receives a monthly Social Security check for $755, and she just recently learned she will get $1,000 a month NET from Oregon's Public Employees Retirement System. After necessary expenditures, there's not much left. She has taken in boarders to make ends meet.

Part of Jean's fiscal dilemma lies in the cost of prescription drugs. She spends $600 a year out-of-pocket, and another $2,200, deducted from PERS and Social Security checks, to buy into a medical plan that includes drugs. She has gone without a medication her physician considers necessary, and is trying to wean herself from Trazodone at this time.

Jean is climbing aboard the Rx Express to see if she can get a break on her own medications, but also to make a statement about the sorry state of health care in the U.S. "Everything has gone up," she says. "They get you on every turn you make."

This is not Jean's first trip across a border to get prescription drugs. Three years ago, she and others in a group called Oregonians for Health Security went to Mexico to buy medications. It was a harrowing trip, with buses and trains and trams and long waits, Jean says. But those who went saved money, especially on such brand name drugs as Lipitor.

Jean also is motivated by a lifetime of political activism. A Portland native who grew up in the Willamette Valley, she graduated from Reed College in 1951. She spoke her mind during the McCarthy era, and has backed progressive causes since. "I'm very outspoken," Jean says. "I've marched, I've been gassed."

Jean worked at many jobs, retiring in 1989 after 15 years as a rehabilitation counselor. Even today she volunteers at a school to help first graders, and reads to patients at a nursing home once a week. "I've played a social work role all my life," Jean says.

It's no surprise to see her on the Rx Express, doing her part to help fix the nation's most intractable problem, inadequate health care.