Access to Health Care

Today, many working individuals in America do not have health insurance and as a result do not have access to quality health care services.  Their employers may not provide coverage, or they may earn too little to buy affordable health insurance or earn too much to receive other types of public assistance.  These are the “working uninsured” who, in many communities, turn to Volunteers in Medicine (VIM) clinics and other safety-net clinics for access to health care services.

Services provided in VIM Clinics

VIM clinics provide health care services free of charge.  Retired and practicing medical professionals volunteer their time and expertise to give back to their neighbors, treating diseases like hypertension, diabetes, mental health issues, and obesity.  Specialized services offered in many VIM clinics range from pediatrics and dentistry to ophthalmology and counseling. VIM clinics are supported by the local community and the services offered are based on the needs and resources in each community.

VIM Clinics and a Culture of Caring

VIM clinics promote a “Culture of Caring” wherein each patient

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by Richard J. Sagall, MD, President of NeedyMeds

Everywhere you look you see claims of savings from drug discount cards. You may be skeptical when cards promise huge savings. And you should be because not all the claims are real.

Too Good to Be True

The old saying “If it seems too good to be true then it probably is” applies to drug discount cards. Drug discount cards have the potential of saving you a lot of money, but you have to understand how they work.

It’s important to remember that they all work basically the same way. Here’s the scoop.

First, a company called a “pharmacy benefits manager” (PBM) or an adjudicator sets up a network of participating pharmacies that agree to accept the cards. Then the PBM negotiates with each pharmacy chain and all the participating local pharmacies offer a discount on the drugs they dispense. The discount is usually a percentage of the cash price of the drug. The percentage may vary from drug to drug.

Next, the PBM finds companies or organizations to market their card. These groups, called marketers, may be for-profit companies or non-profit organizations.

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Sumanah was a 26 year old event planner in New York City when suddenly diagnosed with congestive heart failure.  Sumanah was like many typical 26 year olds, without health insurance and no savings capable of paying for her medical bills. Taking 10 medications for her condition, Sumanah was paying full price at what she “thought” was the cheapest pharmacy. After she discovered that not only were some pharmacies cheaper for the same exact medication, she learned that some pharmacies can be upwards of 16 times more expensive than another pharmacy right across the street. Using this information, Sumanah was able to price shop for the right pharmacy and save a lot on her prescription costs. This story, although not uncommon, shows how important shopping around for medications can be.

In their May issue, Consumer Reports published an article confirming the experience Sumanah and many others have each time they go to fill a prescription. The study focuses on five of the most prescribed medications in the U.S. and reviews more

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Today many Americans find themselves struggling to pay for their medications, unfortunately leading to difficult choices between paying for food, rent, or prescriptions. Luckily pharmaceutical companies and other organizations are aware of this fact, and doing what they can to help alleviate costs for those struggling financially. For many drugs that may seem too expensive to afford there are Patient Assistance Programs (PAPs). These programs offer the drugs at little to no cost to the consumer.

Finding a Program for your Medication:

To apply for a PAP, first make sure one is available for your medication. You can look up each PAP alphabetically on the NeedyMeds site here. There are both brand name and generics listed. Once you find your drug, click on the name of the medication to get to the program details page. Here all of the contact information for the program is listed, along with the application form. You will need to contact the program directly to apply.

Eligibility Requirements:

Every Patient Assistance Program has it’s own set of guidelines and requirements. Most programs require that you are a legal

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I understand it’s tough to ask the question “Why?” to your child’s doctor when the she makes a treatment or testing decision. But if you are going to be an active and informed partner in your child’s health care you need to know when to pose that question.

I am not suggesting you question every decision the doctor makes, but sometimes it’s appropriate.

Here are a few hints as to when you may want to question the doctor.

What will happen if I don’t give my child the medicine? 
 This is usually a good question to ask if the medicine is just to treat a symptom and not the underlying cause of the problem – for example, a decongestant for a stuffy nose or cold, or an antibiotic for what may be a viral infection.

It’s important to remember that every drug has the potential for side effects. Even a drug a child has taken many times may still cause a problem.

Another thought is that perhaps there’s a reason for the symptom. For example, the body’s immune system works better at a higher than normal temperature. There may be a reason for a fever that accompanies many illnesses. Treating it with a drug may only prolong

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