The increasing price of prescriptions, combined with a lack of prescription coverage, is leaving Americans without the medication they need. Fortunately, assistance may be here. A national study has shown that 15% of the population lacked any type of health insurance whatsoever. Even more startling, a staggering 25% did not have insurance covering drugs.
As drug prices continue to rise, those numbers are sharply increasing. The AFL-CIO Task Force on Prescription Drugs reports there are three factors that contribute to the rapid increase in prescription drug expenditures: a.) the increasing number of prescriptions per person; b.) the availability of new, more costly prescription drugs that replace older, less expensive medicines; and c.) the price increases of existing drugs. In response, governments have tried to control rising prices by limiting the utilization of medicine, pressuring pharmaceutical drug companies for price breaks, and changing the Medicare payment formula. It is estimated that overall spending by and for Medicaid beneficiaries will more than triple over the next decade, from $71 billion in 2001 to $228 billion in 2011.
Treatments for various medical conditions and diseases can put a burden on both a person’s bank account and psyche. To add to the problem further, many patients are low income, with little or no prescription insurance coverage and practically no extra income which can be designated for healthcare costs. Even those with health insurance coverage know there are no guarantees: many have had to meet climbing deductibles and had prescription medicine go partially paid for – or not covered at all. There are ways around every healthcare hurdle.
Lack of insurance coverage is a prescription for disaster, while all prescription costs are rapidly escalating, the price of brand name prescriptions is escalating even more quickly. Can you take the generic version of your medicine? Ask your physician and pharmacist if your drugs can be filled with the lower-cost generics. In some circumstances, this isn’t possible because the brand names are more efficacious than their generic counterparts. Many healthcare providers will assist their patients by giving free samples of the prescription medicine. While samples are not a permanent solution they can help in time of need. Ask your healthcare provider.
The best way to get low cost or free prescription drugs is to talk to the drug companies. Contact the company and ask about their Prescription Assistance Program. Almost all pharmaceutical companies offer these programs, which enable people to receive prescriptions they need at a price they can afford (often for free). You and your physician will need to complete an application. Patient Assistance Programs run by manufacturers have been in existence for over 25 years. These programs are designed to help eligible individuals who cannot afford their prescriptions due to low income or other financial hardships. Drug manufacturers did not want their low income patients to be forced to make a choice between paying for life saving medications or for paying for rent or groceries. As a result, patient assistance programs came into being as part of the company’s philanthropic efforts. Until relatively recently, few patients knew about these programs or could follow the complicated application process that was required for participation. Often times several applications had to be filed with several different pharmaceutical companies in order to gain access to a PAP.
The pharmaceutical companies seem to believe that offering information on their websites and toll-free numbers is essentially all that patients need to access PAPs. They don’t appear to appreciate the inability of many people, particularly those on several prescription drugs from 2 or more doctors to follow through with the lengthy application process. It also places an unfair burden on the doctors that are already overwhelmed with paperwork. Fortunately there are companies that will perform the task for patients for a fee. These prescription assistance companies will generally coordinate the process from beginning to end. Of course the prescription assistance is free and if patients will do it themselves they should, but for those people that just do not have the patience to do it themselves, the hiring of a company to do the job is a better option than not taking the prescription drugs they need.