Health Insurance / Medications
If you have either Crohn's disease or Ulcerative Colitis then chances are you are taking some sort of prescription medication to help you manage your symptoms. Or, minimally, you need to see your gastroenterologist once or twice a year for a check-up. And if you don't have health insurance these costs can really begin to add up, especially with all the changes we're seeing today in the economy.
The most important thing to know about health insurance is this: if you currently have health insurance and you quit your job, change jobs, or are laid off try not to let your health insurance lapse until you can figure out a way to get new health insurance. Why is this important? Because, as long as you have health insurance that is covering a pre-existing condition, like IBD, then when you sign up for a new insurance plan the law says that they cannot exclude coverage for that pre-existing condition.
If you have no health insurance at all you can look to places like www.coverageforall.org which can help you figure out what health insurance plans you do and don't qualify for in the state where you live.
When it comes to getting medications, more and more companies are helping people get the prescription medications they need. In the October 21, 2008 issue of the Wall Street Journal, an article titled, "Patients Seek Financial Aid to Buy Medicine" gives advice on how to go about applying to patient-assistance programs to receive medications and lower rates or for free. Some of the web sites listed in the article that may be helfpul include: www.NeedyMeds.org; www.pparx.org; www.RxAssist.org; and, www.togetherrxaccess.com.
Another option is to go directly to the pharmaceutical company that makes the medication you need. On the company web sites more and more of these companies have programs to help patients who are unable to afford the prescription medications they need to get and stay healthy. Some pharmaceutical companies that are currently offering patient helps plans include:
- Shire US for Pentasa at www.pentasaUS.com/Consumers?PAP.aspx
- Salix Pharmaceuticals for Colazal at www.salix.com/products/colazal/indes.aspx
- Alaven Pharmaceuticals for Rowasa at www.alavenpharm.com/patient/html
- Procter and Gamble for Asacol at www.asacol.com
Many of the newer medications for Crohn's disease like Humira, Remicade, and Cimzia may or may not be included in these programs. As of this writing I did not find any information on the particular company web sites offering patient assistance programs for these medications. But, it is always worth making a phone call or writing and email to ask if the pharmaceutical company is willing to help you get their medication for your treatment.
Also be sure to ask your pharmacy if the medication(s) you take is available in a generic form. The cost savings from generic drugs can be significant. Plus, retailers such as Target, Safeway, and Walgreens offer many generic medications for less than $5 for a 30-day supply. Some mail-order companies like Medco offer lower prices for prescription orders on 90-day supplies. Check with your doctor and pharmacy to see if any of the medications you take are eligible. I know that while the Asacol I take doesn't come in a generic form, I get a better price if I order a 90-day supply than if I refill my prescription every 30 days. But, my doctor has to write out a specific prescription that I can send to Medco for the 90-day supply.
There are resources out there to potentially help you get health insurance and your prescription medications. But it will take some time and perseverance on your part to find these programs, fill-out the forms, and follow-up.
Both Presidential candidates recognize that the health insurance system in America is flawed. And both programs offered by the candidates have positive and negative attributes. After having worked in Washington D.C. for many years I also feel the need to tell you that no matter who wins this election health care may or may not be at the top of the new President's list of things to get done and to get done quickly. Also know that it is not solely up to the President to pass any new health care laws. Potential laws will go through a back-and-forth with Congress and certain parts of the plans that we are hearing about today may or may not make it into a final health care plan. My point is this, take action for your health today. Do not wait for the government to help you. Their help may take months or years to get to your doorstep and even then it may or may not be what you were hoping for.
Elizabeth is the author of, Living with IBD & IBS: A Personal Journey of Success - www.ibdandibs.com