It’s a choice no one should have to make – pay rent and buy food or get prescriptions filled. Yet all too often it’s a choice Americans, particularly older Americans, have to make. Over 47 million Americans have no health insurance, and millions more have limited coverage. Many Americans just can’t afford healthcare, and, if they can, they don’t have the money to buy their medicines.
There is help available for many people who can’t afford their medicines. These programs, frequently called patient assistance programs (PAPs), are designed to help those in need obtain their medicines at no cost or very low cost.
All PAPs are designed to help those in need obtain their medicines. Since each pharmaceutical company establishes its own rules and guidelines, all are different. All have income guidelines – but they vary considerably. Each company selects which drugs are available on their programs and how long a person can receive assistance. They also have different guidelines on how often the patient needs to re-qualify. Sometimes a medicine or a certain dosage of that medicine will be on a program, then off, and then back on again. Or one dose of the medicine will be on the program will a different dose won’t be.
One of the most common problem patients encounter when completing the application forms is lack of physician cooperation. Over and over I hear from people whose physicians just won’t complete the forms – or charge to do it. I am asked what they should do. Here are a few suggestions:
1. Make sure you have completed everything on the form that you can. Not only should you complete the patient’s section, but anything else you can fill in. This may include the physician’s name and address, phone number, etc.
2. Bring all the information your doctor may need. For example, some programs require proof of income. If so, attach whatever documents are required.
3. Bring an addressed envelope with the appropriate postage.
4. Don’t expect your doctor to complete the form immediately. A busy doctor may not have time to read the form while you are in the office.
5. If you encounter resistance, tell your doctor that without his/her help, you won’t be able to obtain the medicines he/she is prescribing. Be blunt.
6. If all else fails, you may need to find a physician more sympathetic to your plight and willing to help you.
There are a number of companies that charge people to learn about patient assistance programs and complete the application forms. They will coordinate the process between you, your doctors and the drug companies. They do charge a fee and the charges vary. Some charge a per prescription fee while others charge a flat fee per month regardless of the number of prescriptions. The depth and quality of their services will vary too. Some will just provide the basic paperwork and leave you to manage the process. Others offer a complete and total solution. The better ones offer a full, 100% money-back guarantee if they can’t get your medicines. For those patients that just have one or two medicines from one doctor and have the organizational skills and patience, then the do it your self route is probably the best way to go. On the other hand, if the patient finds the process to overwhelming then employing the services of a firm that specializes in assistance programs is probably best. After all, most people hire a realtor to sell their home, an accountant to do their taxes and a mechanic to fix their car. Surely obtaining ones much needed medicine is worth the few dollars spent in hiring someone to help you.
If you or someone you know are struggling to pay for prescription medicine, I urge you to apply for assistance today. If you qualify, you can get your drugs free from one or more of the prescription assistance programs. There is Rx HELP out there; you just need to be creative and assertive to get the medicine that you desperately need.