Patients without health care coverage or with limited coverage often cannot afford their medications. The effect is medication nonadherence—skipping or taking lower doses of prescribed drugs or forgoing meds altogether. Nonadherence can lead to serious health complications, more visits to the emergency department, and hospitalizations, especially among patients with chronic medical conditions. Prescription assistance programs are one solution to this problem.
“Sixty percent of uninsured and 33% of underinsured people don’t fill their prescriptions as a result of cost,” said Dan Barnes, CEO of FamilyWize Community Service Partnership, among several organizations that offer prescription assistance programs. “The implications of which can be frightening for the general health and welfare of our nation.”
Pharmacists might help their uninsured or underinsured patients spend the money on medications they require by referring them to prescription assistance programs. Some of these programs help patients obtain both trade name and generic drugs at a discount. Others offer free medications to folks who qualify. Eligibility and enrollment requirements vary from program to program, but most have the following patient requirements:
- No prescription coverage or limited prescription coverage from public or private sources
- Demonstrated financial need predicated on a set income and asset limitations
- Proof of U.S. residency or citizenship
Many resources are available to help health professionals, patients only, and caregivers navigate these programs more accessible and enroll patients if they’re eligible. Most have websites that offer quick usage of eligibility guidelines, online enrollment, or perhaps a printable application, searchable databases listing specific medications or products, and links to other health resources. Many also provide toll-free telephone support. A sampling of resources follows.
AARP prescription discount card. AARP’s program offers discounts on prescription medications not included in a Medicare Part D plan. AARP members can use the free prescription discount card at more than 64,000 participating pharmacies nationwide. Pharmacists should first ask patients if they have any other prescription medicine coverage before using their AARP card. A portable app version can be acquired for registered users.
NeedyMeds. This organization helps patients find programs that benefit medication and health care costs. The website offers databases of prescription assistance programs, disease-based assistance programs, free- and low-cost clinics, government programs, and other types of assistance programs.
Partnership for Prescription Assistance (PPA). PPA helps qualifying patients obtain the medications they require through this program that is right for them. Many patients can get drugs free or nearly free. PPA’s website offers a single point of usage of more than 475 public and private programs, including almost 200 provided by pharmaceutical companies.
FamilyWize distributes a prescription drug discount card that has no restrictions and can lower medication costs by as much as 75%. FamilyWize refers to uninsured and underinsured patients to more than 61,000 participating pharmacies nationwide that provide discounts and savings on medications.
RxAssist.This nationally recognized, Web-based medication assistance resource center offers information about prescription assistance programs, Medicare Part D, programs for low-cost medications, and many other conditions related to pharmaceutical access. RxAssist doesn’t operate any medication programs.
Other helpful resources range from the National Consumers League’s “Ways to truly save on Rx Meds? Co-pay cards and other resources,” and the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ health finder website.
Warn patients of possible scams related to prescription assistance programs. PPA recently identified several scams that illegally use its name to gather patients’ private information, sell fake insurance, or charge a fee to access PPA’s materials or website. PPA is a free online resource that will not allow any companies or individuals to utilize its name to sell services.
Tell patients to be often wary of anybody who claims to represent PPA or requests personal information, donations, or perhaps a fee for services.