Where can I get help paying for prescription drugs?

A fellow caregiver asked...

My husband is 65 years old and has high blood pressure and diabetes. The medical bills are piling up, but what's really hurting us is the cost of all his prescription medication. Is any financial help paying for prescription drugs available?

Expert Answer

Barbara Steinberg is the CEO and founder of BLS Eldercare Financial Solutions, which specializes in helping families pay for long-term care for their loved ones. A registered financial gerontologist, she speaks regularly on the topic of paying for long-term care and is a financial expert for Caring.com.

Since your husband is 65, he qualifies for Medicare. If he hasn't already enrolled, he should do so immediately. Then he'll be eligible for Medicare Part D, which provides prescription drug coverage.

Under Part D, your husband will need to obtain prescription drug coverage through a private insurance provider. He'll pay a monthly premium, a deductible ($265 in 2007), and a co-payment of 25 percent of the total cost of the medication until he has spent $2,400 on prescription drugs.

After he hits the $2,400 threshold, there's a gap in coverage referred to as the "donut hole." Your husband will have to pay the full cost of the medications until his total prescription drug expenses are $3,850. Then Medicare Part D kicks in again, this time with a 5 percent co-payment. For a lot of people, the out-of-pocket expense during this gap in coverage can be crushing.

If your husband has limited financial resources, he may be eligible for reduced fees through Medicare or Medicaid. In addition, some state plans coordinate with Medicare Part D to offer low-income seniors inexpensive coverage. (Check with your state to find out whether it has such a program.)

One final option: If your husband is a veteran, he can obtain prescription drug coverage with a lower co-payment through the Veteran's Administration.