How can a non-senior poor person access prescription drugs in Chicago?
November 6, 2011 4:05 PM   Subscribe

How can a non-senior, low-income Illinois resident with no health insurance fill expensive prescriptions?

Greetings from a shitty, evil country that has arranged its economy in such a way that people have to maybe die for no reason.

My uncle lives in the Chicago suburbs. He is 57, low-income, and will soon be discharged from county hospital after a multiple-bypass heart surgery. The county will give him three days worth of medications.

So the man has multiple prescriptions, but he will not be able to afford the medications, which cost hundreds of dollars. What options are there in Illinois for him?

Keep in mind that he is not a senior, he was just turned down for disability, and so he's got no access to Medicare or Medicaid. He is, in fact, poor. I'd guess his income is something around $20K annually.

How do we get him drugs from Illinois, or Canada, or wherever, at a discounted rate?

I am so angry right now.
posted by kensington314 to Health & Fitness (9 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I am going to be in the same situation (in Chicago, no insurance, expensive prescriptions) in about a month. Looking into this Cook County prescription drug card has been on my to-do list for a while now, but I haven't gotten around to it yet.

I really don't know anything about the rules or requirements, just that it exists. You should look into it.

Sorry your uncle's in this situation.
posted by phunniemee at 4:15 PM on November 6, 2011

The best single source spot is NeedyMeds.

Various programs include:
Partnership for Prescription Assistance
RxAssist: Accessing Pharmaceutical Patient Assistance Programs
RxHope: The Heart of the Pharmaceutical Industry
Other Programs

If you know which manufacturers make each drug, all the major manufacturer customer service lines are listed here (scroll down to get past the psychiatric drug info.)

Illinois has a specific discount program for those without insurance. And, Chicago has a clinic for helping people get various discounted drugs.

Also ask to talk to the hospital's social worker. They may have more resources for you.
posted by Fee Phi Faux Phumb I Smell t'Socks o' a Puppetman! at 4:18 PM on November 6, 2011 [4 favorites]

Has he told his doctors that he won't be able to afford the medications? They may be able to start looking at resources to get them, or the hospital might have a social worker who can help with that.

There are also assistance programs, and he can look at the Partnership for Prescription Assistance to try to get into different programs offered by the drug companies.
posted by dilettante at 4:18 PM on November 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

I worked for many years as an RN on a post-bypass unit and we ha a large low income population to deal with. One of the resources we used a lot when sending patients home was, believe it or not, Walmart Pharmacy. They have a fairly extensive catalog of prescription meds for 4 dollars for a 30 day supply. I think it was 10$ for a 90 day supply. You can go to walmart's pharm website and download the list of meds they have available and by and large, most of the medications that bypass pts were prescribed (ACE inhibitors, beta blockers like metoprolol, and even coumadin/warfarin) are on there. It's not a FREE option, but it will at least be a much cheaper stopgap than your regular pharmacy should it take a while to get other services lined up. It saved many of my patients lots of tears - I know that your uncle must be in horror at the amount of meds prescribed to him for when he leaves, but if nothing else check what the list ha available and get them there for cheaper. The one big med they didn't have available was Plavix, unfortunately, and that's quite expensive, though if he tells his doc that e won't be taking it at all when he leaves because he can't afford it (if that's one of his prescribed meds), the doc will very likely try and find a perhaps less effective but cheaper alternative.
posted by takoukla at 4:44 PM on November 6, 2011 [3 favorites]

All of the above advice is excellent, but I do have an additional option. If someone in your uncle's life is willing to spend about $45 once a year, another option is the AAA (yeah, the auto club) prescription program. Members get a free prescription card (it's flimsy, just a piece of paper) that allows users to get discount on prescriptions.

I have excellent health and prescription coverage (for which I pay mightily) but have a $100 prescription deductible to hit before it kicks in. On occasions I've used the AAA prescription card in combination with my insurance card so that I get more bang for my buck, so it may be possible to use with the above-mentioned programs, too.
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 4:52 PM on November 6, 2011

Costco has a prescription program for members without insurance that offers an additional discount on top of their already-low prices. There's no charge for the program over the initial membership fee.

It's not as ideal as something like NeedyMeds, but since it can take a while for those programs to process applications it might be an option as an interim option.
posted by Room 641-A at 6:18 PM on November 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm a senior and before they came out with the Part D Medicare prescription program, I was spending more than I could afford on my medications, but two of them are so incredibly expensive I couldn't begin to afford them. My doctor got me paperwork to fill out for each of the drug manufacturers' low-income/needy program and each company provided the drug to me at no cost - free, period - and these were the highest cost meds of all. The advice from the nurse above is excellent - go to Walmart first and get anything you can on their $4 program - the great majority of the most common meds are available on that plan, but then, before you take a second-choice, possibly less effective medicine because you can't afford the expensive one, check into the manufacturer's needy program; all it will take is a letter and your doctor's signature and you'll be in business. Or at least I hope you will - it worked for me and I'd be dead and gone without it.

As for the "denied disability" part of your situation, keep in mind that everyone is denied at least the first time - it's actually just policy, if you can believe such a thing. It's really, really difficult, but you have to keep trying and not give up. I think the way it works is that anyone who isn't absolutely, completely unable to work will just get irritated with the SS Disability Office and give up and go back to work. If you keep battling them, though, and you don't give up and go back to work (because you can't!) eventually your disability will be accepted. In my case, a company who was recommended to me took over my claim and pursued it through all the blood and gore until it was finally approved - 18 months after I began the fight - I simply didn't have the strength to fight it out - and they did a wonderful job.

Good luck to you both.
posted by aryma at 12:18 AM on November 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Good suggestions here. I think Walgreens also has some kind of discount program.

Your uncle should work with his doctor to make sure his medications are the cheapest possible. He might be stuck with the high-end stuff during his recovery, but once he gets better, the doctor may be able to move him to cheaper stuff. I know of a heart patient who was able to move to an aspirin a day instead of the more expensive anti-coagulant.

Also, many of the drug manufactures have programs for low income people.

None of this happens quickly, however, and in the immediate term, you and the family will probably need to pitch in to help him get a month's worth of drugs.
posted by gjc at 7:04 AM on November 7, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks to everybody for these great suggestions. I've forwarded them all along to my mother. We're still concerned that some of these discounts may not apply to non-generics, so it sounds like we may need to do some haggling with the docs over prescriptions or something.
posted by kensington314 at 10:54 AM on November 7, 2011

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