With health care being prohibitively expensive for this country's working poor, it's no surprise that a large number of Modest Needs applicants are in dire straits because of costly co-pays, medical exams and prescription drugs. But just because it is not shocking, doesn't mean it isn't disheartening all the same. In fact, the number of requests made that describe being forced to choose between food and medicine is absolutely heartbreaking.
However, there is some good news on the horizon for those who are crippled by the cost of health care:
In the next 14 months, seven of the world's 20 best-selling drugs are scheduled to go "off patent." As they do, the brand-name drugs will lose out to generic versions, cutting costs for patients and companies that provide health benefits.
Generic versions of big-selling drugs for high cholesterol, high blood pressure, asthma, diabetes, depression, high triglycerides, HIV/AIDS, and bipolar disorder also are on the way.
Generic medicines - chemically equivalent to the original brand-name drugs - typically cost 20 percent to 80 percent less than the brand names.
The flood of generics will continue for the next decade or so, as about 120 brand-name prescription drugs lose market exclusivity, according to prescription benefit manager Medco Health Solutions Inc.
"My estimation is at least 15 percent of the population is currently using one of the drugs whose patents will expire in 2011 or 2012," says Joel Owerbach, chief pharmacy officer for Excellus Blue Cross Blue Shield, which serves upstate New York.
The new generics will slice copayments of those with insurance. For the uninsured, who have been paying full price, the savings will be much bigger.
These changes to these common drugs won't wipe out the poverty problem in the United States, but let's hope it is at least a slight relief for a good portion of people who find themselves choosing between rent and medicine.
[Photo by Charles Williams]