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Consumer's Edge

Can't afford your prescriptions? Try these programs

Those seeking help should check with established organizations, such as PhRMA.

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Those seeking help should check with established organizations, such as PhRMA.

Can't afford your prescription drugs?

Well, among the many services our troubled economy is producing are offers for discounted or free prescription drugs.

There are legitimate programs. But don't believe every solicitation.

"Some of them are scams. Some of them are legitimate for-profit organizations," said Ken Johnson, senior vice president of Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.

PhRMA runs one of the most notable prescription drug-assistance programs in the country for low-income people. Known as the Partnership for Prescription Assistance, the program has as its national spokesman former TV talk show host Montel Williams.

Those looking for help with prescription drugs or seeking assistance looking for clinics, doctors and hospitals that provide free or discounted medical services can find help through PhRMA for free. To qualify, your household income typically cannot exceed 200 percent of the federal poverty guideline, though some programs are more flexible. (For a couple, twice the poverty level would be $29,140. The income for a family of four couldn't exceed $44,100.)

Also, the nonprofit American Kidney Fund helps with dialysis treatments for kidney patients. The fund helps only needy patients who apply through their dialysis centers. But those who qualify — recipients of Medicare Part D — can get up to $2,000 in assistance, said Tamara Ruggiero, spokeswoman for the fund.

With these kinds of programs, you won't have to put up money or credit card information, as you might for some questionable assistance programs.

So beware.

Scam artists are keenly aware that the number of consumers seeking medical benefits often increases with the unemployment rate.

PhRMA has seen an uptick of as much as 10 percent nationwide in the number of people seeking assistance during the first three months of 2009, compared with the first quarter of 2008. In Florida, the increase has been about 7 percent.

"As the economy continues to struggle, more and more people are finding themselves in the same boat," Johnson said.

PhRMA's bright orange buses have traveled to all 50 states, including seven visits to Florida. Some 425,000 people in 60 cities across the state have been helped through the Partnership for Prescription Assistance.

So here's the Edge:

• Start with established organizations. Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America provides its services for free at www.pparx.org, or call toll-free 1-888-477-2669. Ask your dialysis center about assistance through the American Kidney Fund.

• Don't give out personal financial information. If someone asks you for a credit card number or a checking account number to access an assistance program, look elsewhere.

Ivan Penn can be reached at ipenn@sptimes.com or (727) 892-2332.

Can't afford your prescriptions? Try these programs 04/24/09 [Last modified: Friday, April 24, 2009 10:03pm]

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