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Bus visit could curb drug costs

POSTED: March 25, 2009 11:42 p.m.

If you’ve lost your job or insurance coverage recently, you may have trouble paying for your prescription medications. If so, you’re invited to "get on the bus" this morning.

The "Help is Here Express" bus, sponsored by the Partnership for Prescription Assistance, will be parked from 9 to 11 a.m. today at the Hall County Department of Family and Children’s Services building, 970 McEver Road.

PPA helps match uninsured people with more than 475 patient assistance programs that offer prescription drugs for free or at a greatly reduced price.

"PPA acts as a clearinghouse for all those programs," said PPA spokesman Karl Uhlendorf.

Funded by America’s major pharmaceutical companies, the PPA bus has been touring the country since 2005 and has assisted about 5.5 million people, including more than 230,000 in Georgia. It previously came to Gainesville in September 2007.

Uhlendorf said the bus only stays a few hours at each location because it is visiting a number of cities throughout Georgia this week.

"But we make every effort to ensure that anybody who comes gets a chance to meet with a specialist," he said.

Uhlendorf said the information offered by PPA is available to anyone who knows how to surf the Internet, but people can find what they need a lot faster when a trained specialist is guiding them.

"The bus is equipped with about 10 computers, and the staff will walk you through the process," he said. "You type in your medications, the state where you live, your income, and so on. Based on your answers, we can identify which programs you’re eligible for, and you’ll be given applications for those."

People who cannot come to the bus event this morning can still get access to PPA’s services by visiting its Web site, www.pparx.org, or calling the toll-free number, 888-4PPA-NOW.

Elizabeth Pyron, director of the Georgia Cares program at Legacy Link, the Area Agency on Aging in Gainesville, said PPA provides a valuable service during these tough economic times.

"We (at Georgia Cares) have lost funding to provide prescription assistance, so we’ve been referring people to PPA," she said.

But PPA only informs patients which assistance programs they may be eligible for; it does not actually help them enroll in the programs.

Kim Smith, director of the Health Access Initiative, which serves the working poor in Hall County, said the enrollment process can be daunting.

"(Patients) would have to get help from their physician’s office, which can be a challenge," she said. "It takes quite a bit of staff time and effort."

Clients at the Health Access Initiative or at Good News Clinics, a free clinic for the poor in Gainesville, get assistance in filling out the forms. But people whose incomes are too high to qualify for those programs are on their own.

And if they have several chronic illnesses and are on numerous medications, they need to get the cooperation of each prescribing doctor before they can send in the forms.

"Some of this paperwork is very detailed," said Pyron. "It’s to the point where doctors need a full-time person to deal with this. Some of the smaller practices just can’t do it anymore."



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