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Keep Healthy in a Poor Economy

NEW YORK, July 9 /PRNewswire/ -- Thousands of Hispanics have lost their jobs and are looking for ways to remain financially afloat. Some are forced to choose between necessities to reduce expenses. Important items, such as health care and medications, are being sacrificed and the results can be dire. Maintenance medications and yearly physicals can mean the difference between staying healthy and developing a debilitating disease. The key is practicing prevention.

Pfizer Helpful Answers(R), which is a family of assistance programs for the uninsured and underinsured who need help getting Pfizer medicines, wants individuals who are struggling with paying for their medicines to know that there are options available. These programs provide Pfizer medicines for free or at a savings to patients who qualify. Some programs also offer reimbursement support services for people with insurance. Millions stand to benefit from assistance programs but they are not aware of them.

In June 2009, the unemployment rate in the United States rose to 9.5 percent. Nationwide layoffs were perhaps hardest felt by Hispanics and blacks, who made up the highest percentages of unemployed persons (12.2% and 14.7%, respectively), according to statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor.

While layoffs mean a loss of salary, they can also mean a loss of health insurance benefits. For every one percent rise in the unemployment rate, the number of uninsured Americans increases by 1.1 million according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Maintaining health coverage can be a costly endeavor if you don't know where to look for assistance. Consider these options:

-- Companies that employ 20 or more people typically offer enrollment in the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) health insurance plan. It provides certain former employees the right to temporary continuation of health coverage at group rates. However, COBRA participants generally pay the entire premium themselves. While it is ordinarily less expensive than individual health coverage, it is more expensive than health coverage for active employees.

-- If COBRA proves to be too expensive, you can shop around for a lower-priced plan. These may include temporary policies for workers who anticipate being employed within a certain period of time, or high deductible plans that have lower premiums and focus primarily on catastrophic coverage. The Internet is a good resource and can provide comparable rates. Also investigate Children's Health Insurance Plan (CHIP), which provides low-cost or free insurance for children and teens.

-- Look to prescription assistance programs to offset the out-of-pocket costs of prescription medicines. Pfizer Helpful Answers is a family of programs that helps people without prescription coverage save on many Pfizer medicines, no matter their age or income. People with limited income may qualify for free Pfizer medicines. Pfizer recently announced a new program, MAINTAIN(TM), which is a program that helps eligible patients in financial need continue to get their Pfizer medicines if they have recently become unemployed and do not have prescription coverage. The program will be open for enrollment through December 31, 2009 and applies to eligible Americans who have become unemployed since January 1, 2009 and need assistance obtaining their medicines regardless of prior family income.

-- Call toll-free 1-866-706-2400 or visit to learn about a Pfizer prescription assistance program and determine your eligibility. Information is available in English and Spanish. If you're not taking a Pfizer medication, you will be directed to the Partnership for Prescription Assistance, a collaborative pharmaceutical company initiative.

-- Explore federally funded health care centers. You pay what you can afford, based on your income. Health centers are in most cities and many rural areas. Visit to find a location near you.

Being laid off can be nerve-wracking, but with the assistance programs available you can continue to safeguard your health and the health of your family.

SOURCE Pfizer Helpful Answers
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