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Ask the Health Insurance Expert

I take a lot of prescription medicine but lately it's been very hard to afford it. Do you have any tips on how I can save money or buy it for a cheaper price?

Unfortunately, the dilemma of whether to buy medication or other necessities is faced by many Americans, particularly those who lack health insurance. Four in 10 adults (41 percent) who take prescription medication, say it is at least somewhat of a problem for their family to pay for prescription drugs they need, including 16 percent who say it is a serious problem, according to a March 2008 report, "The Public on Prescription Drugs and Pharmaceutical Companies," issued jointly by USA Today, the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health.

First, talk to your doctor about the challenges you face, and ask if there are cheaper generic drugs that he or she can prescribe to treat your condition. Both Target and Wal-Mart offer low, flat-rate prices for generic drugs. You might wonder about getting free drug samples, which pharmaceutical companies give doctors to promote medications. But those samples are for newer, usually expensive drugs, so when the samples run out--and they will--you're left paying for prescriptions you might not be able to afford.

Most drug manufacturers have patient assistance programs, which provide free or reduced-cost medication to people who can't afford their prescriptions. Some companies operate multiple programs. To find them, first determine who makes your medications, and then go to the companies' websites to look up information about their patient assistance programs.

You can also find help through non-profit groups that steer you through the application process and find programs that fit your needs. Among them are the Free Medicine Program, National Organization for Rare Disorders, NeedyMeds.com, Partnership for Prescription Assistance and RxAssist.org.

For more, see how to get free prescription medicine.

Last updated: Jan. 13, 2011