What to Do If You're One of the 7.5 Million Seniors Who Can't Afford Prescriptions

Many retirees face big financial challenges on healthcare. A Gallup poll this year revealed the troubling news that around 7.5 million seniors in the U.S. can't cover the costs of a drug their doctor prescribed.

Not taking medication can be dangerous, leading to big health problems later. If you're in this situation, here are six options for getting your drugs covered.

1. Apply for the Extra Help program

Those on Medicare with limited assets and a low household income may qualify for Extra Help from the Social Security Administration (SSA). According to the SSA, it offers an estimated $4,900 per year in additional funds to help with Medicare drug costs.

You can find out if you qualify and apply online at the Social Security website, or at your local Social Security office. You may also call Social Security at 800-772-1213 to request an application or apply via phone.

2. Determine if you qualify for Medicaid

Medicaid can help with certain costs not covered by Medicare, including some prescription medications. Seniors with limited assets may qualify, with eligibility determined based on your income and whether your state has expanded Medicaid coverage.

To find out about eligibility requirements and learn how to apply for coverage, you can visit Medicaid.gov.

3. Explore your Medicare coverage options

As a senior, you don't have just one choice when it comes to Medicare coverage.

  • You could sign up for a Medicare Advantage Plan, which is an alternative to traditional Medicare coverage. Some Advantage Plans provide fairly comprehensive prescription coverage.
  • You could shop around for a different Medicare Part D plan. Private insurers offer drug plans with varying premiums and levels of coverage. You may be able to find a plan that pays for the medications you need.

If your current coverage leaves you unable to afford your prescriptions, switching to a different plan could make your medications more affordable. Unfortunately, the primary Medicare open enrollment period just ended on Dec. 7, but there are other opportunities that you might be able to use to get coverage sooner than late next year.

4. Talk to your doctor

If you let your doctors know you can't afford the medication being prescribed, they may be able to help you find a solution. This could include switching you to a less expensive but similar drug or providing free samples from the manufacturer.

5. Write to the drug manufacturer

Often, manufacturers provide discount coupons for medications, particularly if those drugs are expensive. Check the manufacturer's website or contact the company directly via email, phone, or regular mail to request a coupon to help you afford your medications.

6. Check with your state

Some states help lower-income seniors pay for medication. For example, New Hampshire offers the NH Medication Bridge program.

Your state's health department, human services department, or insurance department can often point you in the right direction for assistance.

Explore all your options for getting the medication you need

While it can be frustrating if you're unable to afford medication you need, never give up or be afraid to ask for help. There are often solutions, so explore all your options to stay healthy during your later years.

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