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Almost all pharmaceutical companies have them, most doctors know about them, but relatively few eligible people take advantage of them. Prescription drug patient assistance programs help seniors and people who are uninsured or under-insured get the medication they need at little or no cost.

Although these programs are industry-wide, they all work differently. For example, almost all companies require paper applications, although a few accept telephone registrations. Some application forms are available online for download, but must still be typed or handwritten and mailed in. Some companies will preregister patients by phone and give temporary coverage to those who appear to qualify.

All programs use family income and available insurance coverage as eligibility standards. Income limits are usually tied to the poverty guidelines, setting the cap anywhere from 150% to 200% of the poverty guidelines. Tax returns usually are required to support claims made in the application. Some programs consider your out-of-pocket expenses for other medical care. Some drug companies make all or most of their drugs available through their programs; others offer a few select brands.

If you, a friend, or family member is struggling to pay prescription costs, speak up. Ask your doctor about patient assistance programs. Go to RxAssist at http://www.rxassist.org for a complete list of companies and contact information.

Copyright 2014 Credit Union National Association Inc. Information subject to change without notice. For use with members of a single credit union. All other rights reserved.