Did you know that there are several ways to get low-cost or free medications? From enrolling in a program sponsored by a drug company to getting financial assistance from local governments, you are not out of options. The information is out there, as long as you know how to find it.
Fortunately, we did the hard work for you. After putting in a lot of research, we have compiled this guide on prescription drugs help. Keep reading to learn of all the resources that are out there for you.
GoodRx is an online service that helps you lower costs. When you enter the name of the medication you need, GoodRx searches how much local pharmacies are charging for it. Then, it shows you a wealth of retail pharmacies selling that prescription at a more affordable price. Download the coupon that best suits your needs and drive to the pharmacy.
Sounds simple, right? You can save up to 80% on your monthly medical costs this way. If you’re having trouble affording your medication, GoodRx is definitely a resource to check out.
Who Can Use GoodRx?
There’s one catch, though. You can’t use your health insurance and GoodRx at the same time. That’s because your insurance premiums and copay are probably lower than the coupons you can find at GoodRx. Really, this type of payment assistance is designed for uninsured patients.
There are a few exceptions to this rule. If you’re insured and your policy doesn’t cover the cost of the medication you need to buy, you may be better off using GoodRx instead. Additionally, if you’ve found yourself in an insurance coverage gap, GoodRx can help you save precious money.
2. Medicare Part D
The Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit (also known as Medicare Part D) can also keep the cost of your prescription medications down. It has helped individual families save thousands of dollars since the Affordable Care Act was signed.
Unlike Original Medicare, Part D is not offered by the federal government. Instead, it’s provided by private insurance companies—but at a much lower cost than regular insurance. Throughout the year, patients typically only pay their monthly premiums, although some do have copays and deductibles to worry about. It all depends on what Part D plan you’re on.
Although joining the Medicare Prescription Drug Plan isn’t mandatory, it’s highly recommended. It can get you through bad times (for instance, a chronic illness diagnosis) without breaking the bank.
Who Is Eligible for Medicare Part D?
All patients already enrolled in Original Medicare (also known as Part A or Part B) can also join Part D. Moreover, most Medicare Advantage Plans also offer this drug benefit.
Even if you’re not signed up for Medicare or Medicaid yet, you may still join this low-cost drug insurance plan. These are the main eligibility requirements:
- Being over the age of 65
- Receiving Social Security disability benefits for at least 2 years
- Collecting Social Security disability benefits with an ALS diagnosis
- Having been diagnosed with End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) or kidney failure
Joining Part D isn’t like joining a regular health insurance plan. You can’t just enroll whenever you feel like it—you have to respect the enrollment periods:
- Open enrollment period: From October 15th to December 7th
- Case-by-case enrollment period: As soon as you become eligible to be on Medicare
If you miss these windows, you can still lower your prescription drug costs. But you’ll have to pay a late-enrollment penalty fee.
What Is Covered by Medicare Part D?
There are six protected classes of prescription drug coverage. This means all Part D plans must offer most (if not all) prescription medications that fall into these six categories. You can find both brand-name and generic drugs:
- Anti-seizure drugs
- Anti-psychotic drugs
- Cancer drugs
- HIV/AIDS drugs
Thus, patients with medical conditions relying on these drugs can rest assured they’ll be taken care of.
On top of that, all Part D plans must also offer at least two meds from a list of 148 drug classes. They will all be listed on your insurance plan’s formulary. What this means is that no matter your diagnosis, you will be able to find the prescribed medications you need.
Keep in mind that Part D allows you to fill your prescriptions at both a retail and mail-order pharmacy.
3. Drug Discount Cards
If you’re looking for lower-cost affordable medications, you may also look to drug discount programs. They help you lower prescription costs by thousands, at times, and are offered both by retail pharmacies and mail-order pharmacies.
How These Drug Discount Cards Work
A prescription discount card isn’t the same as insurance. It works in a much simpler way: you get the card and the pharmacy will offer access to financial assistance and special deals to lower your overall medication costs.
What you end up paying is the retail price of the drug minus the discount you got. In a way, it’s a lot like one of those coupon fliers you can get at your local supermarket.
Drug discount cards are best for uninsured patients. It allows them to save up to thousands of dollars every year.
But even patients with health insurance coverage can benefit from discount cards. If your policy’s formulary does not include the specific brand-name drug your doctor ordered, a discount card can help you afford your prescription.
5 Prescription Discount Cards to Consider
We rounded up five cards that look promising with their savings:
- GoodRx Discount Card
- SingleCare Prescription Card
- WellRx Discounts Card
- NeedyMeds Discount Card
- Blink Health Savings
4. Public Prescription Assistance Programs
You may also join a prescription assistance program. They exist in most states and are all dedicated to helping lower-income patients with different medical conditions. By using tax dollars, these state-sponsored programs can provide free medications.
In a nutshell, you first apply to the state pharmaceutical assistance programs dedicated to your diagnosis. Then, if you are chosen, you will receive your prescription drugs either at your home or at your doctor’s office.
You won’t be charged for the treatments, but there is quite a bit of paperwork that must be filled out. Luckily, your doctor can help you apply for the program, as well as explain all the details to you.
Who Is Eligible to Join?
All prescription assistance programs have different eligibility requirements. Some of the common items a patient has to check off to qualify for state assistance are:
- Being low-income or having a restricted income
- Not having a health insurance policy (or it not covering the prescribed medication)
- Having been diagnosed with certain debilitating medical conditions
5. Drug Manufacturer Patient Assistance Programs
Pharmaceutical companies often provide free medications to low-income patients who can’t afford their treatments. Of course, that isn’t done out of pure generosity. The federal government issues tax breaks for drug companies that give away some of their products.
However, this can still be a lifeline for many patients who can’t pay for specific medications—particularly when they’re name brand and no generic version is available.
Typically, you have to apply to the patient assistance program (PAP) either online or by letter. Fill out the forms made available by the pharmaceutical company, attach a note from your doctor’s office proving your diagnosis, and wait to hear back. The application process can take a while, so wait patiently.
If you qualify, your meds will start coming in the mail within a few weeks. It’s a little like getting free samples, only in greater quantity. Then, two or three weeks before your supply runs out, you need to send a refill request.
Who Can Participate?
Many pharmaceutical companies are not transparent about their eligibility requirements. Thus, it can be hard to understand what type of patients they sponsor. Generally speaking, low-income and limited-income patients with no healthcare prescription drug coverage are given priority. Having prescription coverage under Part D isn’t necessarily a disqualifying factor.
How to Find the Right PAP for You
It can also be hard to find patient assistance programs to enroll in. You can either do a Google search or call your drug company directly to enquire about their prescription assistance programs. Just keep in mind that if you choose the latter you’re likely going to be directed and redirected countless times before getting any real help.
However, you shouldn’t get discouraged. There are now a few websites that have a searchable database for active PAPs.
- NeedyMeds: Offers free information and contact details when you search the brand-name or generic medications you need
- GoodRx: Provides contact information and extra details on programs sponsored by pharmaceutical companies for your meds
- Medicare: A centralized website detailing what patient assistance programs are available for your prescription drugs and offering program descriptions
One Last Shot: Talk to Your Doctor
If none of these five resources work out for you—patient assistance program and so on—there may still be hope. When you’re having trouble staying afloat because of your medical bills, it’s a good idea to open up to your doctor.
For starters, they can prescribe you a generic drug. The active ingredients are all the same as the brand-name alternative, so it should still work for you. Plus, generics cost a lot less money and are just as safe. It’s worth trying out a few weeks of a more affordable prescription.
Secondly, your doctor’s office or clinic may have some free samples they can give you. Pharmaceutical sales reps often give away freebies to doctors to convince them to prescribe it to their patients. While freebie medication doesn’t last forever, it can tide you over until you find a more sustainable solution.
Lastly, while you weren’t able to find a patient-assistance program that suited you, your doctor might. Through their professional connections, they may find a spot for you in a federally, state-, or pharma-sponsored program.
Whatever you do, don’t be afraid to ask for help. You’re not the only person in need of assistance, and you won’t be the last.
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