Apr 24, 2008
Once we've figured out what the right meds are, then, for many it becomes a very real financial issue. But if at all possible, cost should be the very last reason NOT to take the medication you need. I have here a number of ways to secure your meds at a lower or no cost.
First of all, if you have the resources to purchase your medication but are just looking to lower the cost, then ask your doctor to prescribe the "generic," PROVIDED THAT THE GENERIC really is, in the doctor's opinion a perfectly good substitute for the branded product. With this in hand, start "dialing for dollars," by calling Walmart and other major drug chains in your area. Although Walmart has taken the lead with their $4 deals, that does NOT mean that other chains are necessarily not as competitive or even more competitive -so ASK. Obviously, if everyone is within a buck or two of one another, then considerations like how far you must drive or the availability of free delivery become a factor. If ONLY the branded product will do -the procedure is the same.
But suppose that funds really, really are tight? No insurance, out of work -etc. The first step is to qualify for whatever state, local or federal programs there may be which qualify you for drug benefits. The usual first point of contact is the County social services office by whatever name it may have. Take with you the information that will establish your identity, residency, employment status, household income and other such relevant data. It can be difficult, sometimes, to accept this kind of assistance but not to worry, you've been paying into it all these years and are probably richly entitled to what you have already paid for.
This process will get you something, but one thing it will probably NOT get you is a smooth road ahead. While the government administers the procedures for qualifying people and putting them in the programs they need, the medical assistance ITSELF is usually handled by "care" organizations paid by the government, who approve or deny particular procedures and drugs. If the drug you need is NOT in their "formulary," you will be denied benefits for it. But, you nonetheless may still be approved by applying for an exception. And that means a lot of time dialing 800 numbers, talking to people who forgot they talked to you previously and who will also tell you that what someone else in their organization said was flat wrong. You will quickly become aware that the people you deal with either were deliberately recruited from the lower 10% of their non-graduating class or were the donors in a brain transplant. If you are new to anger management, this is NOT the place for you.
Your mission is to get to the nurse who reviews your case for an approval. That person quite often does "get it" and has authority to make things happen. Getting to him or her can prove exasperating. Trust me, I speak from experience.
Even after all of THAT, you may still find yourself empty handed. But there are still two options:
1. Go to the manufacturer's website and mouse around for the "financial aid" or equivalent link which will show you how to apply for a lower pricing track or even a free program depending on the particulars of your situation. Not ALL manufacturers offer this program, and there are differences among those that do, but in every case be prepared to offer evidence of your financial situation.
2. Go to: www.pparx.org and roll through the various questions that determine what drug you want and match you with the various programs that provide it. You can go through the application process from this site in many cases and often you will end up exactly where you would by going directly to the manufacturer's web site.
In either of the above 2 scenarios, you will often find that you will be asked if you haver done everything you can to qualify for the government benefits, which is why you go through that process FIRST. That said, it is a good idea to look at the required info for a drug company program immediately, so you can map out exactly what you need to do.
What you do NOT do is PAY anyone or any website for services to do this work for you -in the end, you do all the work anyway; there is NOTHING they can do that you can't do.
All of the above is based on the system as it exists in the US, and Virginia in particular, and there may be important variances among the other states and the situation may be entirely different in other countries. Accordingly, I ask all who read this to update my material with what you know about access and availability to low cost/no cost meds elsewhere. In time, I shall compile the material into a single reference document to appear under the HeathPages section.
Thanks to all for reading and any contributions you can offer.