More than 1.1 million Medicare patients are expected to die in the next decade because they cannot afford their prescription medications, according to a study by the West Health Policy Center. I don’t want you to become a statistic, so let’s talk about how you can get your medications for free.
In this article, we’ll discuss how I get my $13,000/month medication completely free. We’ll also talk about other programs that can help you get free meds or steep prescription discounts.
Nationwide Prescription Assistance Programs
There are many programs that can help you get free meds for specific conditions. If you qualify for one of these programs, it can be a gamechanger for your health!
Good Days Fund
Good Days is a charity that helps people with serious illnesses afford their treatment. If you’re having trouble paying for your medication, they might be able to help.
In order to get help from Good Days, you need to live in the U.S., have a social security number, and your income should be within certain limits (at or below 500% of the Federal Poverty Level). You also need to have valid insurance that pays at least half of your treatment costs. Most importantly, you must have a specific illness that Good Days supports and they need to have funding available for it.
To apply or check if your illness is covered, visit the Good Days website or call them. They have a simple application process and staff ready to help if you have questions.
The HealthWell Foundation is a nonprofit organization that helps people who can’t afford their medication costs. If you have a chronic or serious health condition and find it hard to pay for your prescriptions, HealthWell may be able to help.
They offer financial assistance to cover the costs of prescription drugs, insurance copays, and deductibles. This means if you’re struggling to pay for your treatment, HealthWell could help you get your medication at a much lower cost or even for free, depending on your situation.
You just need to apply and meet their eligibility criteria, which is mainly based on your income and medical condition. Browse a list of their open funds on the HealthWell website.
National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD)
The National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD) helps people with rare diseases get free meds, transportation assistance, and other financial assistance with their care. Since 1987, NORD has been a pivotal organization in providing help to patients who cannot afford their life-saving or life-sustaining medications.
Their assistance includes financial help with insurance premiums and co-pays, diagnostic testing assistance, and even travel assistance for those needing to participate in clinical trials or consult with disease specialists. Additionally, NORD offers a Caregiver Respite Program, providing financial aid to enable caregivers to take a break, reflecting the organization’s holistic approach to support.
In order to qualify, you must be diagnosed with one of the conditions on their open fund list. You can see the full list on the NORD website.
The PAN Foundation can help if you’re having trouble paying for your medications. They offer grants to cover costs like medication copays, insurance premiums, and travel for medical care.
In order to qualify, you must be diagnosed with one of the 70 or so conditions that they cover. You’ll need to browse their list of disease funds to see if you have one that qualifies. If you do, you can apply online or over the phone.
Patient Advocate Foundation Co-Pay Relief
The Co-Pay Relief Program by the Patient Advocate Foundation helps people who have insurance but still need help paying for their medicine or treatment. It’s there to help with the extra costs that your insurance doesn’t cover, like co-pays and deductibles.
You need to have insurance and be getting treatment for a specific illness that the program supports. They use donations to help pay for your costs, and you can apply for help through their website or by calling them. They’ve made it easy to apply with online tools and support.
For more help or to see if you qualify, you can call them or visit their website.
The Assistance Fund
The Assistance Fund (TAF) helps people who can’t afford their medical treatments by covering costs like copays, insurance deductibles, and premiums.
In order to get help, you must have a covered condition. You must live in the United States, have health insurance that covers at least some of your costs, and meet income limits.
You can apply directly on TAF’s website or call them for assistance. They offer help for over 90 different diseases, so check their list to see if your condition is included. If you’re eligible, they’ll guide you through applying and getting the financial support you need.
Nonprofits that Pay for Meds
There are many other organizations that may be able to pay for your medications as well, if you meet their criteria. If you need free meds, it’s always a good idea to see if you qualify for any of these programs that can help.
If you are a musician, you may be able to receive prescription assistance from MusiCares. They may also assist with other expenses, such as rehabilitation, psychotherapy, chronic illness costs and even rent payments!
In order to qualify, you must have worked in the music industry for at least five years or have made a credited contribution to six commercially released recordings or videos. Call (800) 687-4227 or visit the MusiCares website for more information.
The Salvation Army provides a range of support services for those in need, including help with utilities, housing, and food. Some locations may also offer assistance with prescription medications, but these offerings can differ based on regional demands and resources.
People who are looking for financial assistance, particularly for covering medication costs, are encouraged to reach out to their nearest Salvation Army center. This direct approach will allow individuals to discover the specific aid programs accessible in their vicinity, potentially covering medication expenses.
Government Free Meds Programs
There are several government programs that can assist with medication costs. These include Medicaid, Medicare, CHAMPVA and others.
Let’s kick off our list with a powerful resource that has provided essential healthcare support to millions of Americans: Medicaid. If you or someone you know is struggling to afford prescription medications, Medicaid might be the answer you’ve been searching for.
Medicaid provides free health coverage to eligible low income Americans who can’t afford it. In addition to prescriptions, Medicaid can also cover doctor visits, hospital stays, lab tests, preventative care, mental health services, and even vision and dental in some states. When we were younger, my husband had extensive dental work done that was all covered by Medicaid in Washington State.
You can learn more about this program and how to apply in our comprehensive Medicaid guide.
Just remember, the rules have recently changed in many states so it’s always worth looking into even if you’ve been denied in the past. For example, Georgia’s new Pathways to Coverage program expands Medicaid-style coverage to more than 60,000 low income people in the state!
Medicare Extra Help
If you’re covered by Medicare, make sure you look into the Extra Help program as well.
Extra Help is a federal program that provides additional assistance with your monthly premium, annual deductible and medication costs if you are low income. You have to meet income limits and asset limits in order to enroll in Extra Help.
If you qualify then you will only pay about $4 for generic meds or just over $10 for brand-name medications. That’s a great savings – and once your total medication costs for the year exceed a certain amount, anything extra will be fully covered. If you live in a nursing home or get home or community services, you will not pay anything for your medications at all.
Some people are automatically enrolled in Extra Help, especially if they already receive SSI. However, sometimes you have to apply for it on your own. If you’re interested, you can apply on the Social Security website.
CHAMPVA Meds by Mail
So now, let’s talk about how I get my ridiculously expensive meds for free every month. After I got my first sample dose (see below), my symptoms were completely wiped out and I was amazed. I knew I wanted to keep taking it but my insurance refused to fill it.
I use CHAMPVA and part of my coverage includes free medications through the Meds by Mail system. However, since my prescription was only available through a specialty pharmacy, they wouldn’t fill it.
I was frustrated. I was angry. For almost a year, I was in agony while my condition worsened. I couldn’t move without pain. It was terrible.
In my desperation, I started calling around for help and I was connected with a very helpful representative. She told me that the only reason my medication had been denied was because my doctor had prescribed the easy injector pen.
The Meds by Mail pharmacy wouldn’t supply that, but they could give me the same medication with a needle and syringe if my provider would alter the prescription. She also told me that if I really wanted to use the easy injector, my provider could prescribe me a nearly-identical medication that the pharmacy did cover.
I was really grateful for that insight but I was also very upset. I went an entire year in agony because nobody else bothered to mention that a slight tweak to the prescription would result in full coverage.
Once I learned that, I immediately called the doctor’s office and left a message. The doctor tweaked the prescription and I’ve been getting my medication free for the last three years.
If you have CHAMPVA coverage, make sure you ask a lot of questions about what is covered. If you have a medication denied, push back. Ask questions. There may be a solution but it may not be obvious right away.
Many states require cities and towns to maintain a General Assistance fund for low income residents. These funds can be used to pay for many different expenses, including rent and utilities. Usually, those funds can also be used to pay for medications.
This is not a long-term solution. You can usually only access these funds once every few months. However, if you’re having a hard time or a temporary financial hardship, it may be worth asking for assistance from your area’s General Assistance fund.
Corporate Free Meds Programs
There are many companies that offer assistance with medication costs. These companies include prescription drug manufacturers, as well as prescription discount card providers and more.
Patient Assistance Programs
If Medicaid doesn’t work for you, or if you need a medication that Medicaid won’t cover, don’t lose hope. There are a ton of other ways that you can get assistance, including Patient Assistance Programs.
These programs are offered directly by the pharmaceutical companies themselves and can drastically reduce the cost of your medications. Remember that $13,000 a month medication I’m on? It costs less than $25 if you qualify for their Patient Assistance Program – and sometimes you can even get it for free through that program.
There are a lot of perks to using a PAP program. In addition to getting free or heavily discounted meds, the programs usually provide ongoing support and delivery options to make your life easier.
Every pharmaceutical company sets their own eligibility criteria for these programs, but generally you will need to provide the following:
- A valid prescription from your medical provider
- Proof of income (such as a tax return or pay stub)
- Proof of residency (since these programs can vary by state)
You may be asked to provide information about your insurance coverage, if you have any. Typically, you cannot use a Patient Assistance Program if you are covered by a government insurance program including Medicare, Medicaid, or CHAMPVA. Some PAPs require you to have no insurance whatsoever in order to qualify. It just depends.
If you can’t afford your medications, contact the manufacturer right away. Note that this is different from your regular pharmacy – we’re talking about contacting the company who makes your medication directly to ask about their Patient Assistance Programs.
For example, Viatris makes many different medications and offers their medicines free to patients who can prove they have a financial need. Teva also provides certain medications for free through their Patient Assistance Program. Eli Lilly also offers free medications through their Lilly Cares Foundation. This is a VERY common thing for prescription manufacturers to do, so I highly recommend looking into it if you need help.
Prescription Discount Cards
Literally anyone can use a prescription discount card, whether you’re low income or not, insured or not, it doesn’t matter. Anyone can use these to save money on their meds.
You just need to claim your free card and show it at the pharmacy register to get your discount. It isn’t insurance, but it does help lower your prescription prices. Picking up a card takes only a few moments and it can make a HUGE difference in what you pay.
When the VA didn’t refill my husband’s medications in time, we were told that we needed to pick up six pills at a local pharmacy to tide him over until his refill arrived. I was shocked when we arrived at the pharmacy and found out those six pills were going to cost $80 each. My husband’s only medical coverage is through the VA and we certainly couldn’t afford that. Fortunately, the pharmacy tech recommended that we use a prescription discount card. We tried it, and we were able to pick up the entire bottle for $6. That’s a $6 total instead of $480!
LowerMyRx offers one of the highest discounts available. While other cards say you can save up to 70% on your meds, LowerMyRx offers up to 80% off your prescription prices. You can grab your card right now, for free. It only takes a few minutes! Start now.
Free Sample Meds
If you need help getting a new prescription, there’s a quick trick that may be able to help.
Your medical provider may be able to provide you with a sample dose. After all, pharmaceutical representatives often leave samples with doctors in the hope that the doctor will promote that medication.
It can take a little while to get on a Patient Assistance Program or to get financial help from a nonprofit, so a free sample dose can often help you get started with your medication while you look for other resources. You just need to ask your doctor and see what they can do.
This is how I got started with my medication. The doctor gave me a sample dose, and that bought me time to figure out how to keep getting that medication for free.
If you can’t get help from any other source, you may want to consider a clinical trial as a means of getting free treatment. Clinical trials are research studies. They test new ways to prevent, detect, or treat diseases. Trials can study new drugs, new combinations of drugs, or new ways to use known treatments. They help doctors understand if these new methods are safe and effective.
Of course, this means that it’s not a great way to get access to an existing medication. Any treatments you receive through a clinical trial will be experimental and unfamiliar. However, if you can’t get help anywhere else, it may be worth considering.
To find one, visit ClinicalTrials.gov, a database of trials worldwide. Make sure to discuss with your doctor before enrolling to understand all risks and benefits.
More Ways to Get Free Meds
There are community-based organizations and resources that may be able to help you get free medications as well.
Free Clinics & Pharmacies
If your doctor works at a low income clinic, you may be able to save money on your medications automatically. A lot of the free clinics I’ve researched have on-site pharmacies that offer medications for free or on a sliding scale based on income.
Check with the free clinics in your area to see if they have a pharmacy that can help you get the medications that you can’t otherwise afford. You can find a list of free clinics we’ve found in our Free Clinic List.
Churches, Charities & Nonprofits
If you still can’t cover the cost of your meds, don’t worry.
There are many nonprofits, churches, charities and organizations that can help you pay for your medications. However, these sources are often very strained because a lot of people need help. Using a tool like a prescription discount card can make it easier for these agencies to help more people.
You can often get help with meds from these organizations:
- Catholic Charities
- Jewish Federation of North America
- Lutheran Social services
- MusiCares Foundation
- St. Vincent de Paul
- United Way
- and more!
Some states have funds available at the county or township level that can assist you with this as well. You can always call 211 (or 311 if you’re in New York City) to find other nonprofits in your area that may be able to help.
Get an Advocate to Help
If you’re having a hard time navigating the options available to you, it helps to have someone on your side who can advocate for you. The VA offers patient advocates. Seniors can find advocates at their local senior center or Area Agency on Aging. If you’re working with a case manager or social worker, they may be able to help you as well.
There are nonprofits that provide advocacy for patients with specific conditions as well. For example, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society provides a call center with helpful MS Navigators who can help you connect with resources to help manage your condition. They can help you get free meds and other forms of assistance if you have been diagnosed with MS. You can chat with an MS Navigator on their website.
At the very least, you can advocate for yourself. Don’t give up. Ask a lot of questions. Push back. Ask your doctor to tweak your medications. Ask your insurance company what they WILL cover. Call the number for the prescription discount programs and find out where the best deals are. I know it’s hard when you aren’t feeling well. I know it can feel nearly impossible sometimes. But there is help out there and you are worth fighting for.
Fundraise & Look for Grants
If all else fails, you can turn to fundraising platforms like GoFundMe for help with your medications. On this website, you can set up a campaign explaining your situation and how much money you need. Friends, family, and even strangers can donate. You can share your campaign on social media to reach more people. We have some GoFundMe tips that can help.
There are other organizations that can help you raise funds as well. You can also apply for low income grants too!
This article provides useful tips on how to find affordable or free medications in the U.S. It covers a range of methods. These include government and community assistance, corporate aid programs, and strategies such as prescription discount cards. The article also talks about crowdfunding platforms like GoFundMe and Modest Needs. In addition, it highlights the opportunity to get free treatment through clinical trials. This article serves as a helpful guide for anyone struggling with medication costs.