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How Far Would You Go for Cheaper Drugs?

July 14, 2000 — It’s 7:45 on a steamy Friday morning in June, and the commuter parking lot on the outskirts of Montpelier, Vermont’s capital city, is filling up with people in need of drugs.

Ramona and Peter Christensen, dairy farmers from East Montpelier, approach the crowd around the two 15-passenger buses that will take them on the two-and-a-half-hour ride across the border to Montreal. “I’m a little nervous with all this money on me,” says Ramona, 45, as she flashes a fat wad of cash. “Are the drug czars here yet?”

The Christensens aren’t here to score insurance companies to offer drug policies to the elderly. The Democrats would increase Medicare payments to hospitals and other heart medications. Everyone says they would return to Canada if necessary, though Christensen is apprehensive about taking the bus during the icy winter months. Delores Remington, the former newspaper employee, appreciates the bus trip, but is saddened by the need to make the trek.

“We shouldn’t have to get on a bus and go to another country to buy the medications we need,” she says. “We ought to be able to do that in our own home town.”

Curtis Ingham Koren writes for national magazines about health, education, business, and travel from her home in Vermont.

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