Can't Afford Your Medications?

Can't Afford Your Medications?
by Medication Assistance Center

Know someone who can't? Lost your job and health insurance?
The Medication Assistance Center (formerly MedBank) is able to obtain many prescription medications, free of charge, for people who meet certain financial guidelines and have no prescription insurance. This year, the center will provide over $1 million in free medications to patients in the program.
This program is an important resource for our community. When patients are able to take prescribed medications, they don't miss work; they are able to care for their family; they avoid critical illness and costly hospital visits; and improve their overall health and quality of life. They are not a burden on an extended family and are able to contribute within their family and community.
Medications available are those, which a patient takes over a long period of time, such as those for high blood pressure, cholesterol reducing medications, asthma medications, and other medications for chronic illnesses. Medications not available are those prescribed for short-term illnesses such as antibiotics and narcotics or other pain meds. If a specific medication is not available, the staff will work with the prescribing physician to substitute one that is available.
Pharmaceutical manufacturers through patient assistance programs provide medications free to the patient. Each manufacturer sets guidelines for the medications they make and each program is different. Some are very strict about how they dispense medication; others are not. Some have very stringent financial requirements; others do not. Because programs are so diverse, patients need to discuss their specific needs with the center staff.
Eligible patients must come to the center with a prescription from their personal physician and to complete the application process with the staff. This usually takes less than an hour and is by scheduled appointment. Prior to the appointment, the patient is told what documents are required. There is no charge for this service.
Once the manufacturer approves a patient, medications are mailed, either to the home, or to the physician's office. Typically, patients receive a 90-day supply of medications. The center staff tracks the patient to ensure refills are on time and the ordering physician has made no changes. Medications are never shipped to, or stored at, the center.
This program is open to any resident of Washington County or to patients from outside the county whose physician is in the county. If you have no prescription insurance, ask your physician or the office staff about this program. Most physicians in this county have referred patients to the center. If your physician is not familiar with the center, the staff will make a personal call on the office to explain the program to the physician and staff.
In addition to the free medication program, the center offers a pharmacy discount card. This card may be used by the entire family, does not expire, and there are no income limits for its use. It is not an insurance card, but most pharmacies in this area accept the discount card if the patient does not have any other insurance. The discount is good for all medications, but is not accepted for those deeply discounted medication programs at places such as Wal-Mart or Target. With the discount card, the typical savings are 15 percent or more off the price of brand name medications and 40 percent or more off the cost of generic medications.
The center has some patients who need only one medication and those who take as many as 15 - 20 per day. Each patient is different, with different needs. The staff works with each patient or family as individuals. Some patients are young to middle aged working adults who do not have employer-based health insurance, such as restaurant workers, construction workers, or fast food employees. Others have medical conditions that do not allow them to work. Now, patients are coming to the program after losing their coverage due to lay-offs and company closings. COBRA insurance is very expensive and most are unable to pay the approximately $1200 per month for family coverage. The center can help a family during a job search.
Seniors (with Medicare) usually do not qualify, but there may be assistance if they reach a point in the year when Medicare ceases to pay for medications. In order to qualify, the senior patient must have applied for Extra Help from Social Security, which pays for a portion of their monthly premium.
Since the program opened in 2000, the staff has developed a very large referral network. During the application process or the initial call from the patient, the center staff may make referrals to other local programs that will benefit the patient. There is a large network within this community of agencies and people willing to help their neighbors be healthy and safe, and the staff is familiar with many of them.
If you wish to know more about the program or have questions, please call the Medication Assistance Center at 301-393-3441. They are located at 324 E. Antietam, Suite 201, Hagerstown, MD 21740.