Consumer Reports: How to get free medication if you've lost your job

Millions of Americans haven't just lost their paychecks, they've also lost their health insurance. Without it, many are finding it difficult to afford prescription medications.

But as Consumer Reports explains, there are ways to get affordable, sometimes free medicine, even without insurance.

Just a few months ago, Dustin Quinn worked at the front desk of a hotel. But as the coronavirus spread, Dustin became one of the 36 million Americans who have since lost their jobs.

"Pretty hard you know, not knowing where my food is going to come from," Quinn said. "How I'm going to get to pay for my medicine."

For Dustin and others like her, there could be help getting prescription medications.

"Many people may not know this, but there are multiple ways that you can actually get prescription meds for a very low and affordable price or even free," said Lisa Gill, Consumer Reports investigative medical reporter.

Consumer Reports says first ask your pharmacist about all discounts or hardship programs that might be offered by drug manufacturers or even the pharmacy itself. And some pharmacies partner with community health centers that also offer payment resources.

"A lot of pharmacies both independent and large ones, like Walgreens, participate in a federal program called 340B, which allows them to partner with publicly supported community health centers that offer significantly reduced-cost drugs to people in need," Gill said.

If you strike out at your pharmacy, enrolling in a drug company's program could be an option.

"Almost all pharmaceutical manufacturers have programs to help people without insurance who qualify to help people get the medications they need at no charge," Gill said.

As for Dustin, she was eventually able to get her medication by signing up for Medicaid.

"Before Medicaid I would have paid well over $100, I'm not sure the exact amount, but well over $100. With Medicaid, they pay all of it besides a $2 co-pay," Quinn said.

Savings Dustin can use to pay other bills during these unprecedented times.

And If you can't qualify for free meds, CR says you might consider low-cost generics from a big box pharmacy. Walmart for example has long featured a $4 per month or a $10 per three month program for hundreds of generic drugs.

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