Thursday, July 28, 2011

Paying for Prescription Drugs: Assistance for the Elderly

Even with the recent changes to Medicare’s donut hole, the cost of prescription drugs continues to be a challenge for many seniors. Prescription drug statistics tell the story well.

  • Percent of Americans over 60 that used at least two prescription drugs in the last month – 76%
  • Percent of Americans over 60 that used 5 or more prescription drugs – 37%
  • Percent increase in the cost of brand name drugs in the last 5 years – 41.5%
  • Percent increase on prescription drug spending between 1999 and 2009 – 100%
  • Percent of doctors visits that result in some form of drug therapy – 74%
  • Percent of seniors on Medicare that skip one or more of their medications due to the cost – 25%

While these statistics are alarming, there are many sources of financial assistance to help the elderly obtain the medications they require. Assistance is not limited to federal and state programs; the pharmaceutical companies also offer programs that provide medication aid to the elderly. In addition, an informed and pro-active senior or their caregiver can take steps to obtain prescriptions at a much lower cost than full retail pricing.

Many state governments have pharmaceutical assistance programs for seniors that work with Medicare. These programs typically either help pay for the senior’s Medicare Part D premiums or help to lower their prescription co-payments. Almost all major pharmaceutical companies have patient assistance programs that help lower income individuals, even those without insurance, to afford the drugs which their physicians prescribe. It may be difficult for many seniors to break the habit of using a local pharmacy. However, given the fact that so many medications for the elderly are taken on an ongoing basis, it can be significantly less expensive to purchase medications through mail order or using online pharmacies. Admittedly it may require the influence of a caregiver or adult child to help an elderly loved one make this transition.

We’ve recently added a large content section to our website to help families lower the cost of prescription drugs. One can also use our Resource Locator Tool to find programs that help pay for prescriptions.