Now that we visited a doctor through one of the low cost health care options, how do we get that prescription fill without breaking the bank? If it is your typical allergy or flu medication, nothing beats the $4 generic at Walmart or Target.
But what if you have a brand name drug? Or a brand name maintenance drug? This post is a discussion of how to get reduced or free maintenance medication from pharmaceuticals companies for chronic health conditions if you have no health insurance or limited health insurance.
It is no secret that brand name medication is expensive. But most pharmaceutical companies have an established prescription assistance program or a patient assistance program (PAP) to help those who cannot afford their maintenance drugs. Each pharmaceutical company has its own rules and eligibility requirement, it is confusing to apply for these programs without some help from your doctor.
Since my dad’s employer switch to a health insurance plan that does not cover brand name medication (only generics), we are in the progress of applying to a prescription assistance program for his maintenance drug. If he is accepted to that particular program, they will mail him six months worth of prescription medication for free. But it is a long process and requires a tremendous amount of paperwork. So do not wait until you are about to run out of your maintenance medication to apply.
Isn’t it easier to join a discount card program for my maintenance medication?
Most discount card programs offer 10%-20% off their brand name drugs. It is a scam setup to get us to think that we are getting a good deal on their brand name drugs. In most cases, you can get the same deal just by shopping around pharmacies or using a large discount chain pharmacy. A discount card program is not going to help the people who cannot afford the medication in the first place. We need to be careful to not be fool by a discount card program masquerading as a prescription assistance program. However, if you are not eligible for a prescription assistance program, any discount is better than none.
Prescription assistance programs, like financial aid in a hospital, are a safety net for the poor. Income and assets are the biggest criteria for eligibility. If your income is below $40,000 and have less than $20,000 in assets, more likely than not, you are eligible. That last sentence is a general statement since each pharmaceutical company has its own set of eligibility rules for their prescription assistance program. The other criteria include enrolling in Medicare Part D (if eligible) and being a lawful resident or citizen.
Some prescription assistance programs allow people with higher incomes (up to $60,000) to apply if they have no health insurance or drug coverage and are not eligible for any other government programs. If you do not meet the income requirement, but are taking multiple maintenance medication where drug expenses are high, you may still be eligible. If you are struggling with the cost of maintenance drugs, do not brush off prescription assistance programs until you check the eligibility requirement for the specific drug you are taking.
Finding a prescription assistance programs for my maintenance medication on the internet
There are two major websites that serve as portals to the various pharmaceutical companies’ prescription assistance program. Though the mission is the same, how they present the information are very different so it is worth spending some time at at both websites.
An affiliate of Brown University – Center for Primary Care and Prevention, RxAssist offers a list of prescription assistance programs that are searchable by drug name and pharmaceutical company. For each drug, the website provide contact information for that particular prescription assistance program, eligibility criteria, information for the application form, and refill policies. RxAssist also has some information on Medicare Part D, Veteran’s benefits, and some state drug assistance programs.
This is an industry sponsored website. You can also search for a prescription assistance program by the drug name. There is an initial eligibility screening questionnaire that you have to fill out before the website gives you a list of prescription assistance program and low cost government sponsored health centers. Beware – the search results include some discount card programs. However, since this site is sponsored by the pharmaceutical companies, it will have the most up-to-date information on their prescription assistance program.
Once you find the programs for the maintenance drugs that you are taking, you need to fill out different forms for each maintenance drug that you want for free.
I used RxAssist for finding my dad’s prescription assistance program. It has a comprehensive drug list. Unlike the Partnership for Prescription Assistance, I did not have to worry about the search results bringing up a discount card program masquerading as a prescription assistance program.
Though many doctors are familiar with prescription assistance programs, most doctors are reluctant to spend time helping you apply for them because of the substantial amount of paperwork require (though it never hurts to ask). Government sponsored health centers as explained in my low cost health care options article serve people with no health insurance. They are good places to get help with prescription assistance programs since you will need a doctor’s signature and prescription to get the medicine.
Pharmacists work for companies whose primary business is to sell medicine. Though they know about prescription assistance programs, it is unlikely that they will be helpful.
Need more help with filling out the paperwork?
The Medicine Program helps people fill out their paperwork for the prescription assistance programs. There is a $5 processing fee, but the $5 is refunded if you do not qualify. However, at the time of this article, it appears that they are not accepting any new applications. I am still linking to their website hoping that when you decide to visit them, their program is up and running.
Recession help for prescription medicine
Pfizer has launched a new Free medication program, MAINTAIN, for people who has loss their job this year or do not have prescription coverage. They are giving away their medicines for free, up to 12 months or until you become re-insured. You can find more details at STL Mommy.
Until next time and thanks for stopping by Small Steps to Health.
Pill in mouth photo by: Erin.
Prescription bottle on edge of counter photo by: Shutr.
Prescription bottle photo by: Robert S. Donovan.
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