Transgender Pride Flag

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 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

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Transgender Pride Flag

The week leading up to November 20 is observed as Transgender Awareness Week. While new healthcare laws may have expanded access for more Americans, there are still populations that continue to have little to no access to appropriate health care. In the United States, over 27% of transgender/gender non-conforming people have been denied health care.

As transgender/gender non-conforming have become more mainstream terms in recent years, one should be aware of the concept of gender identity:

Gender identity” shall mean a person’s gender-related identity, appearance or behavior, whether or not that gender-related identity, appearance or behavior is different from that traditionally associated with the person’s physiology or assigned sex at birth. Gender-related identity may be shown by providing evidence including, but not limited to, medical history, care or treatment of the gender-related identity, consistent and uniform assertion of the gender-related identity or any other evidence that the gender-related identity is

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Last month, we posted a blog about how many Americans are spending more than $50,000 or even $100,000 a year on medications—more  people than ever before. The information included insured Americans and found that insurance covered an average of 97% of prescription costs for those spending at least $50,000. At NeedyMeds, there are many assistance programs for those who are in need.  However, even with new laws and regulations there are those stuck in between.

There are patients in America that make too much money to qualify for assistance but still not enough to pay all their medical bills.  Patient Assistance Programs (PAPs) and non-profit organizations often have limits to how much income a person or family makes in a year to be eligible for their services.  Good jobs and good insurance can still leave patients paying huge amounts for prescribed medications.

Some medications for serious or chronic diseases such as lupus can cost $2500 per dose. Even with insurance that pays 80% of the drug price there is a $450 out-of-pocket payment, which does not include monthly insurance premiums or other medical costs.  One hepatitis

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In previous blog posts, we have detailed a relatively new method for fundraising for medical expenses called crowdfunding along with our own crowdfunding platform, HEALfundr. Recently, there has been some news regarding the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and a crowdfunding project that made us want to touch upon some key differences between HEALfundr and other crowdfunding platforms.

This month, the FTC formally charged the creator of a Kickstarter campaign with deception by spending crowd-raised funds on himself and unrelated projects instead of the board game represented in his campaign. Using the Kickstarter crowdfunding platform, intended for creative or entrepreneurial projects, the creator raised over $122,000 from 1,246 backers who hoped to receive the board game in return for their pledges. The FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection found that the creator spent most of the money on unrelated personal expenses and licenses for a different project. The order imposes a $111,793.71 refund to those who pledged, but the judgment is suspended due to the creator’s inability to pay.

This kind of development can raise a lot of

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2014 was an exciting year for us. We grew in many ways: more staff, new programs, new information, and increasing savings with our drug discount card. We are looking forward to even more in 2015.

Here are just a few of the changes we expect to see:

  • $4 generic drug information — Very soon we will be adding information on all the “$4 generic” programs in the country. The name – “$4 generic” – is a little misleading. It will include all the pharmacy programs that offer very inexpensive or even free medicines.
  • Generic Assistance Program — We are looking to expand the program to cover more people. To do this we need your help. You can make a donation on our HEALfundr campaign or by signing the “Access Our Medicine” declaration. Each signer we get results in another 50¢ for GAP.
  • Access Our Medication — We are proud to be working with the Mindset Foundation to publicize the problem of medication affordability. They have many events planned for 2015 and NeedyMeds will be a part of them.
  • Imaging Studies Database — You will be hearing more and more about medical consumerism in 2015. NeedyMeds will be helping people make sound financial healthcare decisions. Our first step will be our Imaging Studies database. It will contain the cash prices for 20 common outpatient x-ray, CT, MRI and ultrasound procedures at centers across the country. This database will appear soon and we will be adding more centers every day.
  • Hepatitis C testing facilities — By partnering with the Hep C Alliance of Missouri, we will be listing low- or no cost sources of hepatitis C testing throughout the country.
  • HEALfundr — We expect to see more use of our medical crowdfunding website. We are working on a number of campaigns to add.
  • Volunteer Ambassador Program — We hope to expand our cadre of volunteers who help spread the word about NeedyMeds and all we offer.
  • Heightened visibility — Our goal is to double the number of daily visitors from 8,000-10,000 each workday.
  • A new office — We have outgrown our current office and plan on moving to an office three times the size by March.
  • Call center expansion — We will be adding more staff to our call center so we can better handle all the helpline calls we receive.
  • Drug Discount Card — The growth of our card and the savings it provides continues to grow. We expect this to continue in 2015.

I could go on as we have a lot more planned—but I won’t. To accomplish our goals we need your help and support.  The most important thing you can do is tell your friends, family, colleagues, doctors; share NeedyMeds with just about anyone.

But we need more than that—we need your financial support. Sign the “Access Our Medicine” declaration. Each signature gets us a small donation. If you can afford it, make a donation to NeedyMeds or a HEALfundr campaign. Use our drug discount card to save on your prescriptions and help support us.

2014 was a good year for us, but 2015 will be even better.

Rich Sagall, MD, a retired family physician, is the president and founder of NeedyMeds, a national non-profit that has information on programs that help people in medical need. He is also the editor and publisher of Pediatrics

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