NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


December 8, 2008

High blood pressure, diabetes and asthma are just a few of the conditions that can require ongoing medication.  But with employers slashing jobs left and right, the health insurance benefits that accompany those jobs are vaporizing too.  That's tough on anyone, but it's a serious threat to people on medication for serious chronic conditions who might stop taking their medicine or try to cut back for financial reasons, says My San Antonio News.

Luckily there are a number of places people can turn for help in keeping up their monthly medications, including prescriptions assistance programs run by pharmaceutical manufacturers and drug discount programs at retail chains like Wal-Mart and H-E-B, says the News. 

In San Antonio, Texas:

  • Bexar County residents can go through University Health System to see if they qualify for Carelink, or they can turn to health clinics like CommuniCare -- which operates 2 clinics in San Antonio and serves primarily low-income clientele -- and CentroMed.
  • Communicare has experienced a 32 percent increase in new patients this year; the normal rate is 10 percent.
  • They are also seeing the demand for all their services across the board increase.

However, there may be a lag between people losing jobs and needing prescription assistance, says Devon Herrick, a health economist and senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis:

  • Some people keep their coverage for a short time through COBRA, a temporary health insurer, although that is a pricey option.
  • They may stock up for 30 days or 90 days through mail order, between the job loss and the insurance loss.
  • Some may even shop around doing price comparisons and pill splitting, when appropriate.

Even though health care professionals say that they can't directly tie an uptick in the uninsured population to increasing layoffs, non-traditional healthcare options are seeing an increase in demand, says the News.

Source: Elizabeth Allen, "Loss of insurance doesn't mean end of cheap meds," My San Antonio News, December 6, 2008; based upon: Devon Herrick, "Shopping for Drugs," National Center for Policy Analysis, Policy Report, No. 262, June 2003.

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