The increasing cost of prescriptions, combined with a lack of drug coverage, is leaving patients without the medication they need. Fortunately, assistance is available. A national study has shown that 13% of the U.S. population lacked any type of health insurance whatsoever. Even more troubling, a staggering 22% did not have insurance covering prescriptions.
Those numbers are increasing as prescription drug prices continue to climb. The AFL-CIO Task Force on Prescription Drugs reports there are three factors that contribute to the quick increase in drug expenditures: a.) the increasing number of drugs per patient; b.) the availability of newer, more expensive prescription medicine that replace older, less expensive drugs; and c.) the price increases of existing drugs. In response, states have tried to control escalating costs by limiting the useage of medicine, asking drug companies for price breaks, and changing the Medicaid payment system. 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 place a burden on both a patient’s bank account and mental well being. To compound the problem further, many of these people are low income, with little drug insurance coverage and very little “disposable” money which can be designated for healthcare. Even those with health insurance know the unpleasant truth: many have had to meet rising deductibles and have had medicine go partially paid for – or totally uncovered. There are several ways around every healthcare hurdle.
Lack of health insurance coverage is a prescription for disaster. While all drug costs are rapidly increasing, the cost of brand name drugs is increasing even more quickly. Are you eligible for the generic version of your drugs, or must you take the brand name? Ask your physician and pharmacist if your medicine can be filled with low cost generics. In some circumstances, this isn’t possible because the brand names are more effective than their generic counterparts. Many physicians will assist their patients by providing free samples of the prescription drugs. While samples are not a permanent solution they can help in time of need. Ask your healthcare provider.
Going directly to the drug manufacturer can be most helpful in getting low or no cost prescriptions. Call the company and ask about their Prescription Assistance Program. Almost all drug companies offer these programs, which enable patients to receive medicine they need at a price they can afford (often for free). A lengthy application co-signed by your physician is typically necessary for entry into the program. Patient Assistance Programs run by pharmaceutical companies have been in existence for over 24 years. These programs are designed to assist eligible people who cannot afford their prescriptions due to low income or other financial hardships.
Pharmaceutical companies did not want their low income customers to be forced to make a choice between paying for life saving prescriptions 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, very few people 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 drug manufacturers in order to gain access to prescription assistance programs.
The pharmaceutical companies seem to believe that providing information on their websites and toll-free numbers is essentially all that patients need to access PAPs. They don’t grasp the inability of many patients, particularly those on several prescription medicines from 2 or more doctors to follow through with the complicated application process. It also places an unfair burden on the physicians that are already swamped with paperwork.
Fortunately there are companies that will perform the task for people for a fee. These prescription assistance companies will generally coordinate the process from beginning to end. Of course the prescriptions are free and if patients can do it themselves they should, but for those people that just don’t have the capacity to do it themselves, the hiring of a company to do the job is a better option than not taking the drugs they need.