(HealthNewsDigest.com) — As the U.S. economy struggles towards recovery, employers continue to tighten their belts. And government estimates predict that unemployment will rise steadily until 2010, signaling a situation that will likely worsen before it improves. As a result, thousands more individuals around the country—many of whom previously held full-time positions with comprehensive salary and benefits packages—will feel the impact of additional workforce reductions, reduced salaries and lost health insurance benefits. In fact, since the start of the recession in late 2007, the unemployment rate has risen to 9.5 percent, a 4.6 percent increase which, by some estimates, will result in nearly five million additional Americans without health insurance, adding to the already soaring uninsured population in the United States.
As a consequence, more people forego doctors’ visits, preventive tests and filling prescriptions to save money for an emergency or simply because they cannot afford them. And so, during an already stressful time, many of these individuals are forced to put their health on hold. Results from a recent Kaiser Family Foundation survey show that approximately 60 percent of American households have cut back on health care due to cost concerns over the past year. Three in ten (29 percent) surveyed report having a prescription that they did not fill and two in ten (18 percent) say they have cut pills in half or skipped doses to make their prescriptions last longer.
Although the law allows certain employees affected by workforce reductions to remain on their employers’ healthcare plan through COBRA insurance, a recent study by Families USA reported that the average monthly COBRA premium for a family consumes 84 percent of the average monthly unemployment check. The study also found that in nine states—Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Delaware, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, and West Virginia—average premiums for family coverage under COBRA equal or in some cases exceed total unemployment income. In an additional 32 states, COBRA premiums consume, on average, more than 75 percent of the average unemployment check.
To further complicate matters, our country is facing an epidemic of chronic disease, in large part due to the high incidence of obesity. Nearly one in three (32 percent) Americans are considered obese and nearly half of all Americans (133 million people) are estimated to suffer from at least one chronic disease such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, stroke, mental disorders, and pulmonary conditions. Prescription medicines offer people with chronic health conditions and disabilities a chance to live a more healthy life. With today’s uncertain economy, as more and more people face the loss of a job or health benefits, that possibility is becoming less certain.
New Insights into Uninsured Population
As it has grown, the uninsured population has become more diverse. It includes two-income families, single parents, the self-employed, and recent college graduates. And, the majority of those without insurance today are hardworking Americans under 44 years of age.
As the unemployed and uninsured populations continue to grow and diversify, traditional methods of reaching out to these individuals to communicate options for gaining access to needed medications may need to be reconsidered. More and more individuals now seek information on jobs and health insurance using methods that include the Internet, social media networks and word of mouth, in addition to relying on government and unemployment resources.
Rx Help for Uninsured Individuals
While government officials and policymakers work toward a more comprehensive solution to the healthcare and economic crises in our country, there are programs that can help those affected save on the prescription medicines needed to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Many of these programs are offered directly by pharmaceutical companies, state or county government or through collaborative efforts. Two examples of collaborative efforts include Together Rx Access and Partnership for Prescription Assistance.
The Together Rx Access® Card was created by many of the nation’s leading pharmaceutical companies to help hardworking Americans and their families gain access to immediate and meaningful savings on prescription products right at their neighborhood pharmacy. Most cardholders save 25 to 40 percent on brand-name prescription products. More than 300 brand-name prescription products are included in the Program. Savings are also available on a wide range of generics. The Together Rx Access Card is free to get and free to use.
Together Rx Access also directs individuals to the Partnership for Prescription Assistance, which is a clearinghouse for more than 475 public and private assistance programs, including 180 offered by pharmaceutical companies. In addition, the Partnership for Prescription Assistance connects people to free health clinics in their community.
These programs will continue to play a key role in helping the uninsured take care of their health and the health of their families. For more information on how prescription savings programs may help you, or someone you know, visit www.TogetherRxAccess.com or www.PPARx.org.
Tips for Saving Money on Prescription Medicines
Seek Assistance from Healthcare Professionals
Healthcare professionals, such as physicians, nurses, pharmacists or social workers, are credible voices that help uninsured individuals and families learn about programs that provide access and affordability to prescription medicines. In fact, one-on-one communications with healthcare professionals is often the most effective way that uninsured individuals find real help and the right help for access to prescription medicines.
Utilize Social Media Sites
In the past year, social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, have changed the way individuals engage with each other. Word of mouth communication has taken on a whole new face, with tweets becoming the new «face to face» conversation. Now, through immediate and seamless communication, individuals can actively seek information on topics of interest to them, and request recommendations and feedback. In addition, many prescription savings programs are utilizing social media to communicate with uninsured individuals. By visiting fan pages or blogs, uninsured individuals can determine if they are eligible for the program and, if so, enroll.