Tips for Healthy Travel for the Holidays

Last week was Thanksgiving in the United States, and the holidays are around the corner for the whole world. Many people travel to visit family during these months, including some who may be traveling with a chronic illness. We at NeedyMeds have some tips for healthy travel over the holidays along with suggestions for those with potential health concerns.

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggest seeing a doctor before travel and learning about your destination, especially if traveling out of the United States. Consider any special health needs for children, pregnant women, people with disabilities, chronic illness, or weakened immune systems. If you are traveling abroad, the CDC has a resource to see what inoculations are required and other things to keep in mind about different destinations.

  • If you are flying, give yourself enough time to make it through parking, security, and other lines. Remember to be patient when encountering delays in travel.

  • If you are driving, plan your route ahead of time and pack a GPS, smart phone, or up-to-date road maps as a backup. Remember to get out of the car to stretch and get fresh air periodically.

  • No matter how you are traveling, wash your hands often. Traveling by plane can put one in tight quarters with people from all over the country or the world, potentially exposing you to viruses you may not have antibodies for. We have more tips to avoid colds and flu here.

  • Sleep well the night before travel. While anticipation and excitement can make restful sleep difficult, we have tips for healthy sleep.

  • Eat well before hitting the road.  A wholesome diet not only keeps one’s immune system in fighting shape and gives ample energy for the trip ahead, but it will help travelers avoid expensive and unhealthy junk food.

  • If you have a chronic illness, doctors recommend taking a health history information sheet (HHIS) that includes diagnosis, physician and emergency contact information, medications and dosages info. Travelers should bring a copy of all prescriptions along with their medication in its original packaging. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has guidelines for passengers with disabilities and other health conditions to avoid delays or complications if traveling by air. A medic alert bracelet or first aid kit will also ease the mind of those worried about managing their illness abroad.

While we do not have information on programs that can help with traveling for the holidays, NeedyMeds has resources for those in need of assistance traveling to medical appointments, including specialists far away. For help, search for your diagnosis and look for Travel Expenses or Transportation (Air) under Services to find programs that offer assistance. Some programs may offer transportation for non-medical purposes such as grocery shopping. There are also programs that offer meal delivery or food pantries for those in need with certain diagnoses, which can be found under Services as well. For more information, check our website or call our toll-free helpline at 1-800-503-6897.

Resources for Transgender Awareness Week

Transgender Awareness Week falls between November 14-20 every year and is meant to help raise visibility of a vulnerable and underserved community.  ‘Transgender’ is an umbrella term for people whose gender identity is different from the sex assigned at birth; ‘gender identity’ is one’s innermost concept of self as male, female, a blend of both, or neither.

Transgender Pride Flag

Transgender Pride Flag

Transgender and gender-nonconforming people can face significant problems with accessing health care. Finding a healthcare provider who is knowledgeable of transgender health issues can be a hurdle itself; some healthcare professionals may believe that there is something wrong with someone because they are transgender—they are wrong. Even after finding a knowledgeable and sympathetic doctor, insurance may not cover the cost of treatment. Many transgender people are on a dosage of hormones which can affect one’s blood pressure, blood sugar, or in rare cases contribute to cancer. Some cancers found in transgender people can appear atypical—trans men are at risk for ovarian and cervical cancers, and trans women can be diagnosed with prostate cancer.

Transgender/gender non-conforming people experience gender dysphoria, a clinically significant distress recognized by the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) caused by a person’s assigned birth gender differing from the one with which they identify. This leads to increased depression among the transgender community, which can be exacerbated by being rejected by family and friends, abuse/violence, or discrimination.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) protects against discrimination based on gender identity. Despite these protections, over 27% of transgender/gender non-conforming people report having been denied health care. Even paperwork can be a barrier to access for transgender individuals as standard forms often only list “male” or “female.” Nearly 21% of transgender people in the US report being subjected to harsh or abusive language from a healthcare professional, and an almost equal amount say healthcare providers have blamed them for their own health conditions. Transgender people report the highest rates of discrimination and barriers to care among the LGBT community.

Human Rights Campaign (HRC) has information on finding insurance for transgender-related health care. To further help those in need, NeedyMeds has a growing list of programs in our Diagnosis-Based Assistance database for transgender/gender non-conforming people that offer various forms of assistance such as financial aid or legal services. NeedyMeds’ unique crowdfunding platform HEALfundr is also available for individuals trying to raise funds for their transition. If you know any programs assisting transgender/gender non-conforming people that we don’t have listed on our site, leave a comment and let us know about it.

Resources for Diabetes Awareness Month

November is National Diabetes Awareness Month. In the United States, nearly 30 million people are diagnosed with diabetes, with another 86 million Americans at risk for type 2 diabetes; that’s nearly one out of every 11 people with diabetes, with 1 out of 4 unaware they have the condition. Awareness of the disease cannot only prevent future cases for those at risk, but also help raise funds to develop new treatments for those living with diabetes.

There are different types of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes presents with the body not making insulin, and those diagnosed must take insulin injections every day. Only 5% of those diagnosed with diabetes have type 1, and there is no known method to cure or prevent type 1 diabetes. With type 2 diabetes, one’s body doesn’t use insulin well and is unable to keep blood sugar at normal levels. Type 2 diabetes has a number of risk factors:

  • Being overweight;

  • Being 45 years or older;

  • Having parents or a sibling diagnosed with type 2 diabetes,

  • Being physically active less than three times per week.

file0001162747680Race and ethnicity also can affect one’s risk. African Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, American Indians, Pacific Islanders, and some Asian Americans are at particularly high risk for type 2 diabetes. Preventing type 2 diabetes can be as easy as eating healthy food such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains; staying physically active; and stop (or don’t start) smoking.  These methods are also used to manage diabetes once diagnosed, along with testing your blood sugar and taking medicine/insulin as prescribed.

People with both type 1 or type 2 diabetes are at higher risk for serious health complications including heart disease, stroke, blindness or other eye problems, kidney disease, and severe infections that can lead to amputations. The risk of death for adults with diabetes is 50% higher and their medical costs are twice as high than those without.

NeedyMeds once hosted a webinar on how to empower patients to self-manage their diabetes and also has several areas to search for help with diabetes costs. Our Patient Assistance Programs (PAPs) database has programs offered by pharmaceutical companies that provide medication at low- or no cost for those who qualify. To find out if there’s a PAP available for your medication, click on the Brand Name Drugs or Generic Name Drugs links and look up your medication alphabetically. If you find your medication, click on it and you will be able to look over any assistance programs that are available and their unique eligibility requirements. There are also coupons and our Drug Discount Card for those unable to use or find a PAP. The card can also be used for purchasing diabetes supplies, such as glucose meters, strips and lancets, as long as they are written like a prescription.

There are also many national and local resources for those with diabetes in our Diagnosis-Based Assistance area of our site. All of our information is available for free on our website or through our toll-free helpline at 1-800-503-6897.

Healthcare in the 2016 U.S. Election

The United States is in the midst our presidential election at a time when healthcare is a major concern for a majority of Americans. In the Kaiser Health Tracking Poll from August, two-thirds of voters said that the future of Medicare and access to affordable care are a top priority for them. The Affordable Care Act (ACA)—also known as “Obamacare”—continues to be a polarizing issue to many despite the number of uninsured Americans falling below 29 million, or 9% of the U.S. population. We have previously covered many of the proposals from the presidential candidates during the primaries, but with less than two weeks before the general election we felt it important to cover the positions of the remaining candidates.

Democrat nominee, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has made healthcare a major issue in her campaign. She has defended the Affordable Care Act in speeches and pledged to improve the law as well as drop the eligible age for Medicare to 55. She has remained critical of pharmaceutical companies raising the price of life-saving medications such as EpiPens, and promised to expand access to affordable healthcare in rural America. As the first female candidate for a major American political party, Hillary Clinton is a strong defender of reproductive healthcare and a woman’s right to choose.

Mental health has also been a major talking point for the Clinton campaign, promoting programs that can diagnose mental illness early and proposed a national suicide prevention initiative. She has pledged to invest in preventing, effectively treating, and developing a cure for Alzheimer’s Disease by 2025 and to expand our research and understanding of autism. Hillary Clinton is a proponent of paid medical and family leave and supporting our veterans.

Republican nominee Donald Trump has repeatedly called for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, calling it a “disaster.” He has proposed replacing the ACA with Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), a flexible savings account already widely used by Americans with high-deductible insurance plans that accrue untaxed income to be used specifically on healthcare costs. He has also supported allowing individuals to purchase insurance across state lines, something already permitted in Georgia, Kentucky, Maine, Rhode Island, Washington, and Wyoming insurance exchanges. Trump has supported pricing transparency to allow patients to shop for the best prices for their healthcare and remove barriers for bringing medications to market and buying prescriptions from other countries. He has pledged to appoint Supreme Court justices to overturn the landmark abortion case, Roe v Wade.

This election has been particularly divisive in the United States, contributing to the popularity of third-party candidates. Libertarian nominee and former governor of New Mexico Gary Johnson strongly opposes government-mandated health insurance, but is supportive of abortion rights. Green Party candidate Dr. Jill Stein’s vision is healthcare as a right, with a “Medicare for All” single payer public health program that eliminates the need for health insurance which she says “adds costs while reducing access” to care.

We at NeedyMeds prefer to remain apolitical—we work in a diverse office with people of varying backgrounds and views—but we believe in making informed choices. The information above is largely from the candidates’ own campaign websites, and we’ve explored their relevant positions as thoroughly as they have been described therein. While NeedyMeds does not endorse any candidate for president, we encourage all Americans to vote November 8.


It should be clear, however, that NeedyMeds supports improved access to care and lower costs for medications and healthcare services for all. Our site has databases of Patient Assistance Programs (PAPs), Diagnosis-Based Assistance (DBAs), and Free/Low-cost/Sliding-scale Clinics to help those in need.  The NeedyMeds Drug Discount Card can save users up to 80% off the cash price of prescription medications for those without insurance or choose to use the card instead of insurance. In addition to the plastic card, the card is available in a printable form or a smartphone app for Apple and Android devices. For more help finding information, call our toll-free helpline: 1-800-503-6897.

Prescriptions Cost More in the US

We have written many times over the past year of the growing concern of rising prescription costs, from last year’s Daraprim price increase to the more recent life-saving EpiPen price hike. We have tried to explain why these things happen in the US health care industry, but there are a lot of contributing factors. A majority of Americans still consider prescription costs unreasonable and an important political issue.

Euro coinsOne thing often pointed out is that medications are often much more expensive in the U.S. as compared to other countries. Pharmaceutical companies have denied this, saying that prices in the U.S. may appear higher because there is no reporting on discounts drug manufacturers give to insurance companies or pharmacies. While many discounts can be 50% or more, the same medications are often still less expensive in European and other countries than the out-of-pocket costs for Americans. Analyzing a number of prescription medications, Bloomberg found that some drugs cost up to 85% more in the U.S. even after discounts. The list prices for these drugs are often up to 500% higher than in other countries.

Pharmaceutical companies set their own prices in the U.S. and are often raised over time (frequently by companies that bought the rights to the formula—not the companies that developed the drug). Private insurers and benefit managers negotiate their own rebates with the drug companies while Medicare, the federal health insurance program under the Social Security Act, is prohibited from negotiating prices directly with drug companies even as one of the biggest buyers of medicine in the U.S. The European market for prescription medications is set by government health systems and prices decline over time.

USDAccording to those within the industry, prescriptions only account for 12-14% of U.S. health spending and it is unfair to single out medications as a cost driver. The existence of cheaper generic medicines and faster access to new drugs are part of the United States’ free-market system, said a PhRMA spokesperson. However, even after large discounts (that everyone may not be eligible for), prescriptions ranging from cholesterol pills to insulin can be twice the price of the same drug in European countries. The deals pharmaceutical companies reach with insurance companies or other countries are rarely ever made public.

NeedyMeds exists to help those struggling with the high costs of medicine and medical care. Our site has databases of Patient Assistance Programs (PAPs) that offer brand-name or generic drugs for low- or no cost, notably that provides EpiPen two-packs for low or no cost. For more information, please call our toll-free helpline at 1-800-503-6897. You can search your medication in the Drug Search on the NeedyMeds website, or call our toll-free helpline (800-503-6897).

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