In a survey released in early 2018, only 37% of Americans said they would be able to pay for an unexpected $500-$1000 cost. 63% of respondents said they would need to resort to measures such as cutting back other spending, using a credit card, or borrowing money from friends or family in the event of a costly emergency. We have been writing for years on our position that people should not have to decide between health care or groceries or skipping prescriptions. There are ways to build a health spending plan to ensure you are financially able to pay for medical expenses, no matter when they arise.

There are a number of savings options available that can help make the most of income. Health savings accounts (HSAs) or Flexible spending accounts (FSAs) deposits are often made pre-tax through the employer, and can be spent tax-free on qualified medical expenses. FSAs and HSAs both allow people to save money in tax-advantage accounts, but there are key differences:

FSAs can be used with any type or no insurance; HSAs can only be used/contributed to in conjunction with a high-deductible health plan.

Money in FSAs not

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NeedyMeds is celebrating twenty years since starting as a website for those seeking assistance with the high-costs of prescription medications. In 1997, Richard Sagall, MD, and Libby Overly, MSW, MEd, both realized a need for a centralized resource for information on pharmaceutical Patient Assistance Programs (PAPs). Over our first ten years, we gained 501(3)(c) non-profit status, introduced our PAPTracker software for advocates helping patients with PAP applications, and started our first newsletter Patient Advocate News (now known as Patient Assistance News; aka PAN).

In 2007, we began to expand the website from more than just Patient Assistance Programs to include government programs and other application assistance providers. The following year we grew to include databases of free/low-cost/sliding-scale clinics, coupons for medications, and other organizations that provide diagnosis-based assistance. The NeedyMeds Drug Discount Card started in 2009, saving users $560,000 in its first year nationwide. To date, the NeedyMeds Drug Discount

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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.

One 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

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NeedyMeds’ mission has always been to help patients find help covering the costs of health care expenses. A previous guest post from Consumer Reports outlined the problem patients may face when confronted with expensive prescriptions, sometimes having to choose between needed medicine and groceries for their family.  Two recent studies show that the problem may be growing as out-of-pocket costs for health care are continuing to rise.

According to a study from TransUnion Healthcare, the consumer’s share of healthcare costs rose by 13% from 2014 to 2015. The report also shows that while costs rose, patients had fewer resources to pay for the increase expenses, as the amount of revolving credit had declined.  Out-of-pocket costs include deductibles, copayments, and coinsurance.

The University of Michigan conducted a second study that calculated the average out-of-pocket expenses for an inpatient hospital stay for a patient with private insurance was more than $1000, increasing 37% from 2009 to 2013. 

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Medication prices continue to be a major concern for many Americans.  Recent months have seen a deluge of stories of drugs with $100,000+ price tags.  A 2015 poll found that a third of patients saw a price increase in their medications last year.  The problem is that these price increases have different causes, making it difficult to solve all the issues.

With advances in science we have seen development of new, highly successful drugs sometimes costing as much as $1000 per pill.  These prices are often seen as justified when researchers look at the benefits of a curative versus the potential long-term cost of living with a condition and less effective treatments.  This is frequently called “value pricing.” The companies that develop these drugs reap profits for the medications patent life (typically 7-12 years) until generic medications are able to enter the market at more affordable prices. The question that remains is whether these exceedingly high prices and several years of wait are worth some patients not being able to afford a medication that could cure them.

The problems of expensive effective brand-name drugs

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