Another "No Health Insurance" Question
January 4, 2013 9:39 PM   Subscribe

No health insurance, no primary care doctor, really low on cash (no credit card/no bank account) need a prescription filled. What now?

I have asthma that's recently flared up due to allergies and illness. I'm running out of Singulair and Albuterol (inhaler).

What is my best option for getting a prescription and not paying hundreds of dollars for the medication itself?

I live in Illinois (Chicago) if that helps.

posted by patientpatient to Health & Fitness (23 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Probably already ahead of me here, but...

At least try to get one of them on the phone. You might get help WRT whom to call.
posted by mreleganza at 9:44 PM on January 4, 2013

If the RX is available generic, check out the various chain pharmacies' "club" programs. Walgreens and the like have them. You have to pay like $50 annual fee but then generics are super cheap.
posted by radioamy at 10:00 PM on January 4, 2013

When I was without health insurance, I also needed my emergency inhaler as it was running very low. I had a lot of luck calling a previous doctor (whom I had not seen in a couple years) and begging them to write me an emergency prescription. They took pity on me and I was able to buy my medication without insurance (unfortunately for me it was an inhaler without a generic so I was out $300).
posted by ruhroh at 10:05 PM on January 4, 2013

Mreleganza probably has it. Also, re: generics, it's worth remembering that a few years back the government decided that all inhalers had to be reformulated so that they didn't have CFCs as propellants, and that reformulation means that most inhalers don't currently have generics on the US market.

If Mreleganza's place isn't helpful, or if you find that it has more hoops to jump through than you are able to deal with, I'll point out that you can buy Singulair and Albuterol online, and you'll spend under a hundred bucks for two inhalers and a 28 pack of 10mg Singulair. I wouldn't necessarily recommend this if you've never seen a doctor about your issues before, but it sounds like this is something that you have a history of and you know what you need and that it works, so...

Go to WalMart or whatever and buy a prepaid Visa, or see if you can get someone to take your cash and let you use their card. (If you do the prepaid, possibly contact the card issuer before purchasing and make sure that they'll let you use it online, but there are definitely places that do.) Find online pharmacy. Order. In a week and change, your meds will show up.

I've used Inhouse Pharmacy before for quite a lot of things, and have had good luck with them. For a while, buying certain meds from there was significantly cheaper than buying them with our shitty insurance, so I've bought a lot of stuff from them and never had a bad experience. Nothing's ever failed to show up, or has been out of code or shown up looking sketchy. (Brand names and packaging will be different, obviously.) Researching this has actually shown me that I can get my partner's inhalers cheaper through them than I can through his (fairly good) insurance, so we'll probably be placing an order soon. YMMV, IANAD, etc. Feel free to Memail me if you have questions about this.
posted by MeghanC at 10:11 PM on January 4, 2013 [7 favorites]

Try Community Health. They have a clinic in West Town and one in Englewood, but if you go to the one in West Town, they also have a free pharmacy for uninsured patients. You will have to see one of their doctors to be able to access the pharmacy, but I used them a few years ago when I was uninsured and they are great. Sometimes it takes a while to get an appointment but if you let them know your situation, maybe they can get you in faster, I don't know.

WEST TOWN 773.395.9900

Mon: 9AM - 8PM
Tues: 9AM - 8PM
Wed: 9AM - 8PM
Thurs: 9AM - 8PM
Fri: 9AM - 1PM
Sat: 9AM - Noon
posted by deliciae at 10:41 PM on January 4, 2013 [5 favorites]

Memail-- also check out Merck's patient assistance program. This is maybe more of a long-term solution than a short-term one, though.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 10:47 PM on January 4, 2013

Walgreen's, Costco, Rite-Aid, K-Mart, Wal-Mart, Wegman's, CVS, Pathmark, and numerous other grocery/big box/pharmacy stores have discount programs. Some have annual fees, some do not. Look on their lists. This is probably the cheapest route if your meds are on the discount list.

GoodRx gives prices all over the place and provides discount coupons with them.

RxOutreach has a discount prescription program for low-income people, though it's not super-duper cheap and GoodRx may have better prices.
posted by Anonymous at 11:06 PM on January 4, 2013

It is a slog, and help varies by location - but here are a few resources I've found in a similar search.

Find a health center

Asthma and Allergy Foundation

Needy Meds

In my experience, the 'free' clinics typically charge between $50-$75 per visit. They'll typically rubber stamp maintenance prescriptions for non-controlled substances, but any actual physical exam is cursory at best and adds to the cost of the visit.

Both clinics and drug manufacturer patience assistance programs can be invaluable, but require proof of low/no income. This is difficult if you work freelance, can't provide current tax returns, or if unemployment benefits have expired, so be aware and prepared to get the relevant paperwork together.

Good luck and I hope you find the help you need. Doing without your inhaler in flu season sucks.
posted by Space Kitty at 11:07 PM on January 4, 2013

I also meant to say the wait to get an office visit can be lengthy, so be sure to explain you need to be seen urgently. They only allot a limited number of appointments for cash patients each week; typically you call every day as soon as the scheduling desk opens and hope for the best.
posted by Space Kitty at 11:31 PM on January 4, 2013

Whichever doctor you go to, ask for samples. Ask if they can help you out by getting you samples for the next month if they don't have any on hand. Albuterol inhalers are generic and a lot of clinics can get samples. The Singulair may be different. It is widely prescribed, but not generic (that I know of) and I'm not sure if those samples are readily available. Most docs want asthmatics to have that albuterol as a rescue inhaler so I'll bet they can somehow get you some.
posted by MultiFaceted at 11:37 PM on January 4, 2013

MultiFaceted: "Albuterol inhalers are generic and a lot of clinics can get samples."

Minor data point: Since 2008, when albuterol inhalers had to stop using CFC as a propellant, there have been no generic albuterol inhalers. Proventil HFA, Proair HFA, and Ventolin HFA are all name brand at the moment. There is some theory that the first two are still protected by other patents besides their "main" patents (which have since expired). Sadly, whatever the cause, albuterol inhalers shot from $5-7 per inhaler to over $60 over four years ago.
posted by fireoyster at 1:27 AM on January 5, 2013 [1 favorite] can be one of the ways. You won't save a ton, still better than paying in full
posted by zaxour at 5:14 AM on January 5, 2013

I can't believe I'm actually suggesting this, but if you ever get truly truly desperate and cannot get your medication, you can go to the ER and would probably be able to get a 'free' inhaler from them. We keep them on hand and give them out to patients all the time. Keep in mind this is not actually a free or cheap option, if you aren't planning on paying your bill at the ER, someone's paying for it, and it's WAY more expensive than getting the albuterol from one of the discount sources above. Still, I've seen young people die from asthma and that should never, never happen in this day and age, so I'm mentioning it. Please don't pretend you can deal with the asthma attack until it gets so bad that you aren't able to help yourself.

Also, there are social workers at the hospital who can help with getting meds in situations like yours (you don't have to check in to the ED to talk to them, you can call the hospital and ask to speak with one).
posted by treehorn+bunny at 5:46 AM on January 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've found Wegmans to have the best program. It's free to join, and a certain amount of their prescriptions are free (not sure what qualifies, but I have gotten antibiotics at no charge).

Can you call stores and ask how much it will cost? I've had pharmacists be very helpful with this.
posted by DoubleLune at 6:19 AM on January 5, 2013

If you do have a little money to pay for the inhaler at a discounted price:

If the person who wrote the old Rx is in town, go to him/her and ask him/her to write a new Rx as a favor. Try going to the office in person with your old inhaler in hand. If it is in fact just albuterol, and the old Rx is recent, then another doctor might do it, too, say an OB-GYN or a psychiatrist. Then, Rx in hand, compare prices as with

If you have no money at all:

Go to one of the free clinics in Chicago (example) and get into their pipeline. You may need the rest of their services later, anyway.

treehorn+bunny is correct that the ER has plenty, but try the clinic route first.

Good luck! I know it's a hard place to be.
posted by skbw at 6:28 AM on January 5, 2013

Just a follow-up to another commenter above: every city and clinic is different, but New York's version of Chicago's CommunityHealth, which I linked in my comment above, actually is free if you really can't pay. I've gone in with no job and a month's rent in the bank and paid nothing. Other times, working but uninsured, I've paid around $30. I am not adding this to say "you're wrong," but rather to encourage patientpatient to give it a try.

Don't be discouraged by the paperwork and documentation requirements on the website. Bring in whatever you have and let them sort it out.

I would be surprised (as a veteran of many social service agencies) if you didn't walk out of there with an inhaler at a very low cost, if not free.
posted by skbw at 6:35 AM on January 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

Albuterol is on WalMart's list of $4 prescriptions (pdf). Singulair just became available as a generic, so ask the people if it's also available for $4 but just hasn't made it to the pdf file yet.
posted by Houstonian at 6:57 AM on January 5, 2013 [2 favorites]

Those "doc in a box" urgent care places are actually not super expensive and can see you on the same day. Unless you can get your old doc to write the prescription, it might be the best solution. I am worried that the various free clinic options suggested here might take a long time to see you (and you might not even qualify for care). You shouldn't really wait that long for asthma meds. I think this is one case where it might make sense to fork out some cash, borrow it if you have to.
posted by yarly at 7:42 AM on January 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

In addition to the many suggestions above, I would second DoulbeLune and recommend explaining your situation to your pharmacist. He/She might be aware of programs that are available, and might be able to adjust the cash price (depending on company policy and/or their willingness to be helpful) in the event that nothing else proves helpful.

Having your doctor switch you to medications that are more affordable on a cash-only basis (e.g. albuterol inhalers) should be strongly considered (and you might be able to do this with a phone call to your doctor).
posted by 1367 at 8:54 AM on January 5, 2013

You can download a free prescription discount card from FamilyWize. This organization is nationwide and is affiliated with United Way. You can search to see where the drugs are available and for how much in your area. It looks like one tablet of SINGULAIR CHW 4MG is about $12--don't know if that's good or bad.

United Way 2-1-1 is another place to go to ask about options . You have to use a landline and dial 2-1-1.
posted by ramenopres at 10:08 AM on January 5, 2013

Just to clarify for the OP, Community Health in Chicago provides free care and as I mentioned, free meds through their pharmacy. It's the wait for an appointment that will be the problem here, as I see it, but it never hurts to approach them and indicate the urgency or suggest that "I think my meds will run out in X days" and see if they can accommodate you.
posted by deliciae at 1:53 PM on January 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

I agree, deliciae.

Your clinic may vary, of course, but if an appointment in the next few days is not forthcoming, I would try going in person in the early AM. You will be far from the only walk-in, and a case like this should be an easy in-and-out matter.

IF you (OP) have no money because you're working a bad and presumably inflexible job, then time off work sucks, but you'd have to take time off for an appointment in 2 weeks, anyway.
posted by skbw at 2:31 PM on January 5, 2013

Confirming fireoyster:

The $4 generic from walmart is for albuterol tablets, syrup, or nebulizer solution. I should have read the fine print before trying to go to the pharmacy tonight.

They stopped making Proventil generic when they reformulated the prescription - it's currently $58.
posted by Space Kitty at 7:41 PM on January 5, 2013

« Older Who wrote about mapping diseases?   |   How to approach a Masters in Computer Science Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.