With more than 1 in 10 of California’s workers unemployed in January and the state registering its highest jobless rate since June 1983, Californians are cutting back across the board to save money. As job losses often mean the loss of health insurance coverage; patients are finding themselves bearing the brunt of health care costs previously covered by their insurance plans. Even those that have been able to keep their job and insurance coverage may be feeling the pinch. Although California’s new budget agreement staved off mass layoffs: state-worker furloughs, trimming workers’ hours, freezing wages or cutting pay are depressing incomes and contributing to a growing number of uninsured or underinsured families in California.
With the state’s unemployment rate skyrocketing, Californians are finding themselves in need of help. Since the recession began in December 2007, the nation’s economy has lost 4.4 million jobs, more than half of which occurred in the past four months. Whether people have lost their jobs, or just need to retrench and cut back on out-of-pocket expenses, the Partnership for Prescription Assistance (PPA) can be a free, confidential resource for struggling, uninsured and underinsured Americans to find out about programs that may help them get the medicines they need for free or nearly free.
The Partnership for Prescription Assistance is a nationwide effort sponsored by America’s pharmaceutical research companies to raise awareness of patient assistance programs. Since the PPA’s inception in April 2005, the program has helped more than 5.5 million people across the country, including 327,000 Californians. The PPA implemented a special program to more effectively help patients following a natural disaster, and now – as the country faces a looming economic crisis – the PPA is here to help some more.
Patients who qualify for help from the PPA’s participating patient assistance programs have access to more than 2,500 brand name and generic prescription medicines. In addition, the PPA provides information on more than 10,000 free health care clinics in America and has connected more than 17,900 California patients with free clinics and health care providers in their communities.
Because of these pressures, more and more Californians are turning to the PPA to find information about where they can get help. In the six months between April 2008 and September 2008, there was a nearly 11 percent increase in the number of searches performed through the PPA. What’s more, September saw a nearly 15 percent increase in the number of people finding help (53,592 matches in September alone), compared with April.
Patients seeking help from PPA may call toll-free, 1-888-4PPA-NOW (1-888-477-2669) to talk with a trained specialist or access the PPA Web site at www.pparx.org. It takes about 15 minutes to find out if someone may qualify for free or discounted medications, and help is available in over 150 languages via the PPA call center.
With California companies large and small continuing to lay off workers and government cutting health care programs to help balance budget deficits, the ranks of the uninsured are likely to swell throughout 2009. The PPA will be a rock in the sea of uncertainty to help uninsured and underinsured Californians get access to the medicines they need.
Billy Tauzin is the president and CEO of PhRMA, the trade association representing the country’s leading pharmaceutical research and biotechnology companies.