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Report Finds Many Uninsured Adults Go Without Drug Coverage

APRIL 28, 2006 -- While lawmakers have focused on giving Medicare beneficiaries increased access to prescription drugs, low-income, uninsured people under age 65 are struggling to get the medications they need, according to a report released this week by a Washington health policy research group.

The report published Wednesday by the Center for Studying Health System Change (HSC) documents that 26 percent of uninsured adults in 2003 did not buy at least one prescription because of its cost, compared with 8.7 percent of people with employer coverage.

The report further reveals a lack of new federal and state resources specifically targeting that population's access to prescriptions.

Faced with a shortage of resources, safety net providers such as local hospitals and community health centers have developed several strategies to help low-income, uninsured patients overcome the hurdles, the report details.

According to visits in 2005 to 12 communities such as Boston, Greenville, S.C., and Syracuse, N.Y., safety net providers have made acquiring free or reduced-cost medications part of their routine, doing so by applying for discounts on brand-name and generic prescription drugs through the federal 340B Drug Pricing Program, trying to increase the amount of free drugs available in pharmaceutical manufacturer assistance programs, and relying more heavily on funding from state charity pools and private organizations.

Many also have obtained access to a federal prescription drug discount program.

The policy research organization is funded primarily by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

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