Access to the right medicines can mean a healthy new year

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Here’s a gift you won’t have to take back in January: the medicines you or a relative need to have a healthy new year.

Too many people in Washington state, however, can’t afford the medicines they need, or take unhealthy risks like skipping medicines or cutting them in half.

Rather than fighting for that parking spot at the mall, why not take a few minutes to see if you can access one of hundreds of assistance programs available for those who need prescription medicines.

Prescription medicines make all the difference for many people in Washington who face chronic illnesses such as asthma, arthritis or heart disease. Access to prescriptions isn’t only about improving quality of life. The right medicines can also mean lower health care costs overall.

This isn’t just speculation. Studies demonstrate receiving the right medicine improves the quality of life and health.

At the Prescription Drug Assistance Foundation, a Washington state-based charitable organization, we’ve seen this first-hand. One patient in Spokane who worked for himself made repeated visits to the hospital after a heart attack. Lacking health coverage, we helped him access medicines and he has not been back to the hospital since.

The good news is there are a number of tools available for those who cannot afford prescription medicines, even if you have some health insurance.

For those without coverage, there are literally hundreds of programs from pharmaceutical research companies and other organizations that can provide access to medicines. The PDAF helps our clients work through the various applications and requirements so they can access the medicines they need.

Many believe that only those below the poverty line are eligible for help. In fact, couples with incomes up to $45,000 may be eligible for some assistance. Those with incomes up to twice the poverty level will find there are many programs that provide medicines free.

For those above that level, they can find other kinds of help. Discount cards are available for middle-class families.

There is even help for those who have a limited amount of health insurance. Some medicines require large copays, making it difficult to buy them. Copay assistance is available for some medicines, allowing people to access their health insurance coverage by receiving help with a large copayment.

It is important, however, to seek help soon. Many programs require four weeks to process and receive medicines. Don’t wait until you are about to run out of medicines before reaching out.

The assistance experts at PDAF can help some with temporary assistance — working with doctors and others to provide prescription samples and other medicines that can bridge the gap to long-term help.

These tools, however, are increasingly limited, making it more important to take action early so there isn’t a gap in your health care.

Washington state is a leader in developing new cures and medicines that make life more livable for those with chronic disease. The good news is that many of these breakthroughs are available to low-income families, and there are programs that can dramatically improve the wellbeing of people across our state.

In this season of giving, take some time to make sure you or a loved one receives the medicines they need. Reach the PDAF at www.mtgmeds.org or by calling 888-779-2527. It is one way to begin the new year, happy and healthy.

Sallie Neillie is chairwoman of the board for the Washington-state based Prescription Drug Assistance Foundation.

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