Free Prescriptions for People without Health Insurance, Drug Coverage
People who have no health insurance or who have no prescription drug coverage may be able to take advantage of patient assistance programs, which are run by pharmaceutical companies. Patient assistance programs provide free or nearly free medications to individuals who cannot afford to buy their medicine.
All of the major drug companies have patient assistance programs, and the programs generally offer the best known and most prescribed drugs. The eligibility requirements for each pharmaceutical company’s patient assistance program vary, although they do share many of the same basic features. Generally, people must have an income under 200 percent of the federal poverty level, must not have prescription coverage from any private or public source, and must be a US citizen or US resident. Some companies require applicants to have no health insurance.
Potential participants are required to complete an application for the company’s program, and although different companies may ask for different information, generally they inquire about prescription coverage, eligibility for public health insurance programs, income and asset information, and veteran’s status. They may also ask for proof of income, a prescription from your doctor, information about your doctor, denial letters from Medicaid or insurance providers, and patient consent forms.
People who want to see if they are eligible for free or low-cost prescriptions have two choices: they can contact the pharmaceutical companies individually on their own, or they can enlist the help of one of various services that can do some of the footwork for them. These services typically have a database that includes information on the pharmaceutical companies’ patient assistance programs, their requirements, and the medications they offer, and so can help match a person’s needs with the most appropriate companies’ programs. Such services can help identify which companies require people to be without health insurance, for example, or which provide the specific drugs the patient needs. If the medication needed is not in the database, it means that a currently existing patient assistance program does not provide that drug at this time.
One such service is Rxassist.org. To access the Rxassist database, patients must register with the site, after which they can search for their prescription drug by name or by manufacturer. Rxassist.org was created by Volunteers in Health Care (VHC), a national nonprofit resource center that works with people who do not have health insurance. The center is funded through private foundations, corporate sponsorships, and private donation. The volunteers with VHC ensure that the data on the website is current.
The Free Medicine Program is another nonprofit effort that helps individuals get prescription drugs without charge. Like Rxassist, it was established by volunteers, and the majority of its applicants have too much income to qualify for government prescription assistance program but not enough to buy private prescription drug or health insurance. Yet another nonprofit service is Prescription Assistance Program, which states on its website that it offers “a single point of access to more than 475 public and private programs, including nearly 200 offered by pharmaceutical companies.”
Individuals who do not have health insurance, whose health insurance does not cover prescription drugs, or who otherwise are unable to purchase the medications they need may be eligible for free or nearly free prescription medications. These opportunities exist for those who qualify and who are willing to wade through the websites and paperwork.