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Finding help with medical costs

Finding help with medical costs


By Janet Benavente, Colorado State University Extension
Agent, Family and Consumer Science


As the cost of medical insurance climbs and Medicare and Medicaid funding continue to shrink, many older individuals are searching for ways to maintain their quality of life. There are some little known medical resources designed for uninsured and underserved aging or disabled persons.

Many states have prescription drug assistance programs. However, Colorado is one of 14 states that currently does not have such a program. Volunteers in Health, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in collaboration with Brown University and the Memorial Hospital of Rhode Island, provides information about non-governmental pharmaceutical access programs available nationwide to fill the gaps not provided by governmental programs.

If you cannot afford to buy your prescription medications, most drug manufacturers offer a limited supply of free prescription medication to eligible patients. These Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Patient Assistance Programs (PAPs) have 1-2 page application forms that are free from your physician or from the pharmaceutical manufacturer. For those with Internet access, most applications are available on line. For more information about PAPs , talk with your doctor, pharmacist, or refer to the PhRMA directory. To obtain the PhRMA directory call 1-800-762-4636 or go to Contact your physician or local Area Agency on Aging if you need free assistance completing the PAP application. To find the nearest Area Agency on Aging, call 1-800-677-1116. Be cautious of other organizations that offer help with completing PAP applications, there may be a fee that may or may not be refundable. If you are disabled or over 65, are a Medicare recipient, and have no other prescription coverage, many pharmaceutical companies have drug discount cards. Some provide discounts on all drugs they manufacture, while others provide discounts only on selected drugs. These discount cards have no enrollment or annual fee but are valid only at participating pharmacies. If you are interested in these discount cards that provide 20-40 percent discounts or flat fee per prescription, find out if your pharmacy will accept the card provided by the manufacturer of your most expensive prescription. The household income limits for these discount cards range from $18,000 to $30,000 for individuals and $24,000-$40,000 for couples.



What is covered?

Benefit Contact Information

Glaxo-Smith-Kline Orange Card

All drugs 30% savings at participating pharmacies


Eli Lilly Answers

All Lilly drugs except controlled substances Flat rate per prescription (less than$20)


Pfizer Living Share Card

All Pfizer drugs Flat rate per
prescription (less than $20)


Together Rx Card

150 select drugs from Abbott, AstraZeneca, Aventis, Bristol-Meyers Squibb, GalxoSmithKline, Johnson &Johnson, and Novartis 20-40% discount at participating pharmacies.


(Information from Volunteers in Health 11/22/02)

If you or a member of your family is a veteran, contact the Veteran's Administration at 1-877-222-8387 or If you or a member of your family is an active or retired member of the United States Military
Service, go to for information regarding the National Mail Order Pharmacy Program and to find the phone number of your regional office.

If you can afford to pay a portion of the cost of your prescriptions and do not meet the income criteria for PAPs and Manufacturer's Drug Discount Cards, there are free and membership fee discount programs.
The Nonprofit Warehouse's Prescription Drug Discount Program is associated with K-mart Pharmacies. There is no fee and it is available to any individual regardless of age or income. For more information, call 770-541-7777

There are also group discount drug plans offered through employee benefits programs or membership in national organizations. Check with all professional and special interest organizations of which you are a member to see if this is a benefit of membership. These group discount plans usually have an annual membership fee.

U. S. citizens or legal residents over 65, who have not seen an ophthalmologist in the last three years, do not have an HMO, and are not eligible for VA or Armed Forces care may be eligible for free eye care.
The National Eye Care Project Hotline (1-800-222-3937) will match eligible callers with one of 7,600 volunteer ophthalmologists nationwide. The physician will provide a comprehensive medical eye
examination, and treatment for any condition diagnosed at the initial visit. If ongoing treatment is needed, it will be provided for one year. This program does not cover eyeglasses, prescriptions, hospital services, and fees of other medical professionals. This service is funded by the Foundation of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, Knights Templar Eye Foundation, Inc., state ophthalmological societies,
and volunteer ophthalmologists.

If none of these options match your circumstances, community health centers, national disease advocacy organizations, or social service and religious organizations may be able to help you. Contact your local health department or senator or congressperson's office if you cannot locate medication assistance or medical care on your own.


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