(Note: This article is mostly specific to the United States, but some links might help others as well.)
If you’re anything like me, you’ve felt the effects of rising health care costs. My insurance covers most of my needs, but I haven’t always had this luxury. My husband and I both have conditions that require multiple prescription medications and visits to the doctor. The prescriptions are easily the most expensive things we have; one of mine costs $360 for a one-month supply! This is covered by insurance and so I have a much smaller copay, but that’s because I’m one of the lucky ones to have insurance through my husband’s employer. Imagine what it would be like for people who are unemployed or whose jobs don’t offer health insurance! If you’ve ever actually tried to price a policy for yourself, you know how expensive it can be. Even if you *do* have insurance, I know there are a lot of other needs that insurance might not cover, such as the test supplies for diabetes. There isn’t even a guarantee that a prescription drug will be covered, especially if it is relatively new on the market. Changes in the US health care system are being proposed and voted on in Congress all the time, but there’s no telling when those things are going to take effect, or what they’re going to be. Here are some things to check out in the mean time to help you better afford some of your most pressing health care needs.
Pharmacy Savings Clubs. Many pharmacies and drug stores have savings programs that allow you to get discounts on prescription drugs and/or other related items. These are not insurance, but do help cut down on costs. They will usually have a specific list generic medications that will either be sold at a flat fee (often $4-$6 for a 30-day supply, and $10-$12 for a 90-day supply) or at a discount. Many also give discounts on specific brand-name medications. Some also offer discounts on store-brand items such as diabetic test strips, insulin,test meters, and incontinence undergarments. Sometimes there is a fee to join, but not always. Many also offer flu shots. Here are a few such programs:
Rite Aid Pharmacy Rx Savings-http://www.riteaid.com/pharmacy/rx_savings.jsf
CVS Health Savings Pass-http://www.cvs.com/CVSApp/promoContent/promoLandingTemplate.jsp?promoLandingId=1046
National Prescription Assistance Programs. Many of us live on a fixed income or have other pressing needs that make it difficult to afford our medications. However, sometimes you and your doctor can work through various national programs to help you get some of your medications for free or nearly free. This is different from what I mention above because they are not savings clubs so much as networks of pharmaceutical companies, civic groups, doctors and patient advocacy groups. One major such program is the Partnership for Prescription Assistance. This isn’t a single program so much as a ‘gateway’ to various other programs and agencies. You will go to the website (https://www.pparx.org/en) and enter some basic information, and will then be matched up with different programs and agencies you might be eligible for. Each affiliated program has its own eligibility criteria.
Another thing you can do is ask your doctor about assistance through the manufacturers of your specific medications. They might not always advertise these programs, but your doctor can usually find out more information about them. Much of the time they will only work through your doctor, but each manufacturer has its own system.
Last, but certainly not least:
Federal and State Public Assistance Programs. Most of us have probably heard of Medicare and Medicaid, but we might not always know what they entail or how to go about applying for them. There might also be other types of assistance from the government that could be separate from those particular groups, such as the VA and prescription drug coverage. I found a basic page of information and links at http://www.usa.gov/Citizen/Topics/Health.shtml, but your county or state government probably knows of a few things too. For instance, I got care for depression for years through the Wake County (NC) Department of Public Health. They weren’t free, but they worked based on my ability to pay. The social workers and doctors were able to get help for other people for various health needs.
Health care-and specifically, prescription drugs-are among the most expensive and yet most essential expenses anyone will have. I hope you will check out the information I’ve given above to at least help put a dent in those costs. If nothing else, it’s worth looking into.