Having been laid-off in 2007, I know firsthand how difficult it is to afford health insurance and prescription drugs. I had employer sponsored health insurance and I was eligible to continue my insurance plan under COBRA for 18 months, but payments were $460/month and that wasn’t an expense I was willing to absorb and watch it eat away at my savings. However, I chose to continue my dental insurance under COBRA for $54/month because I was having expensive procedures performed.

Walking away from health care was a scary thing for me. I had high cholesterol and hypertension and the medications were not cheap. But a funny thing happened after I lost my job. My blood pressure returned to normal because the micro-management and cranky client induced stress was no longer present. As for the high cholesterol, I stopped snacking on deep fried shrimp three-four times a week and that resolved itself, too. A lifestyle change was all I needed, but getting laid-off was a rather harsh way to administer it.

I tried finding my own private health insurance plan, but I was considered to be “uninsurable” due to pre-existing conditions. I had excellent health insurance with my employer and never hesitated to use it. Little did I know that it was gong to come back to bite me. Because of never thinking twice about making a trip to the doctor, my rejection letter read like a death sentence. Aside from colds and seasonal allergies, every single thing I ever went to the doctor for was a nail in my coffin regardless of whether or not it was still an issue or just an acute episode. Michael Moore’s documentary ‘Sicko’ details how insurance companies go to huge lengths to craft those denial letters. My only option was to purchase a high-risk policy, but that was over $700/month.

Discount Health Plans

In September 2009, California issued a buyer alert warning about “discount health plans” that misrepresent themselves as health insurance. The plans charge an enrollment fee and then a monthly payment for discounts on medical fees, but the patient is still required to pay all doctor fees upfront and then get reimbursed. Many of these companies errantly list doctors not in the network. I was duped into signing up for one of these plans. I had a local “insurance agent” come to my house. About a month later a got a rejection letter from them, but they continued to charge my credit card for a monthly fee. After a little digging I discovered there was a “discount health plan” attached to the upfront fee I paid, something the agent didn’t tell me about.

Before cancelling it I reviewed their offerings. There wasn’t a single item on the list that I needed or couldn’t get on my own. One of them was for prescription drug help. I’d like to share with you some of the free programs I’ve discovered in my search for affordable health care.

Prescription Drug Help

Some time ago I secured my own free prescription drug card at RxSavingsPlus. It’s administered by CVS Caremark, the largest provider of prescriptions and related health care services in the nation, and doesn’t require any hokey memberships. Just fill out a short online form and print the card out. I’ve used it several times at Wal-Mart, Rite-aid, and K-mart.

I’ve been noticing many “prescription drug card” websites popping up recently, but they have fees attached because the people operating them are paid commissions.

Help From Drug Companies

Some drug manufactures, yes, “Big Pharma”, offer free or discounted programs, too. Merck is one of them. Do a search engine search on the name of the manufacturer plus “patient assistance” or “drug assistance” to locate them.

Find Health Care Programs

I was reading the paper one day and saw a short article about finding health insurance for laid-off workers or otherwise uninsured. It’s a website run by a nonprofit company in San Jose, CA called the Foundation for Health Coverage Education. The site is CoverageForAll and provides information on a variety of state and federal health care programs nationwide, not just California. Most people don’t even know about these programs, much less how to find them. An easy online health insurance eligibility quiz can assess which programs are available to individuals and/or their families.

Good health to all.