Helping with health insurance

By Ernie Brown

The next president of our country will again have to deal with the seemingly impossible problem to solve — providing low-cost, quality health care to millions of Americans who are without that coverage.

Many Americans, mostly the poor, and yes, mostly minorities, have to face the grim reality of trying to find food for their families or getting prescription drugs to treat a variety of ailments.

Now I am not endorsing any particular prescription medication program, but I got an e-mail recently from Together Rx Access, a program that may provide some relief.

A 2005 story from The New York Times says 10 major pharmaceutical companies joined Together Rx Access to cut 25 percent to 40 percent from the retail prices of prescription drugs sold to uninsured people of modest means younger than 65.

Roba Whiteley, executive director of Together Rx, said, “We are in a difficult moment right now in our economy, and if people can know about saving money on their prescription medicine, that will be a big help.”

People who enroll in the program receive plastic cards that can be used to obtain substantial savings at local drugstores, she said.

“This is immediate help. More than 1.5 million people are cardholders, and you usually get your card in two weeks. The card is free to get and free to use,” she added.

Together Rx Access says more than 300 brand-name prescription products are included in the program.

Savings are also available on a wide range of generics. Medicines in the program include those used to treat high cholesterol, diabetes, depression, asthma, and many other common conditions.

According to its Web Site,, the program helps ethnic groups gain better access to prescription medicines by offering a simple enrollment process with no documentation requirement.

Enrollment materials are provided in Spanish and English.

Together Rx Access says it works with black and Hispanic patient advocacy organizations to help generate awareness of the program in the black and Hispanic communities.

The statistics cited by Together Rx Access are pretty grim for blacks and Hispanics, who make up a large part of America’s uninsured population.

For example, one in five black adults is uninsured, which accounts for 6 million people in the U.S. More than one in three Hispanics does not have health or prescription insurance.

Although the majority of Hispanics work, they are less likely to have health coverage as they may be recent immigrants or employed in low-wage jobs with no benefits.

Even though Hispanics are now the largest ethnic minority group in America, they often face language barriers, which can result in a lack of health care.

Finally, blacks face greater gaps in health coverage than whites. This is a concern because blacks are at greater risk for certain chronic conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes.

The statistics were given to Together Rx from the Kaiser Family Foundation and its commission on Medicaid and the uninsured and Cover the Uninsured, a campaign to get more Americans health insurance and a project by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

For those who don’t have computers or Internet access, here’s how to qualify:

UApplicants cannot be eligible for Medicare or have public or private prescription drug coverage.

UHousehold income of less than $30,000 for a single person or $60,000 for a family of four is required. Income eligibility is adjusted for family size.

UApplicants must be legal residents of this country or Puerto Rico.

Among the companies participating in Together Rx Access are Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., GlaxoSmithKline, and Pfizer.

Granted, this is no substitute for comprehensive health insurance, but it may be worth your while to check out this program.

To find out more, call (800) 444-4106, or visit its Web site

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