A huge state budget deficit has many Alaskans concerned about losing health benefits, leaving many asking where they can turn for help.

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A number of people recently spoke out on the KTVA Facebook page when we asked whether they've forgone medical care or medication because they couldn't afford either. People said everything from not being able to afford cancer screening tests to rationing their medication because they didn't have the money to pay for it.

The Anchorage Neighborhood Health Care Center provided some possible solutions for people struggling to cover health care costs. The community health center offers comprehensive medical and dental care to those who otherwise wouldn't be able to afford it. 

When it comes to rationing medication, for ANHC's outreach, enrollment and eligibility manager Samantha Longacre suggests that people be up front with their doctor if they're going to change how they use their medication.

"Because that can make a big impact on your health," she said.

Longacre offered several tips on how people can reduce the cost of their medications, including using websites such as NeedyMeds.com and GoodRX.com. The websites offer coupons and even have assistance programs for people who can't afford their medications.

"You could talk to the pharmacy and say that you're having a hard time affording your meds and they should be able to point you in the direction of some discount cards or maybe even help you check and see if that pharmaceutical company has a financial assistance program or if you can get those medications at a discount directly from them," she said.

Longacre said people can also talk with their provider to see if there are generic versions of the their medications to help lower the cost or possibly switch to less expensive medications that may also work for them.

Many of those who commented on the KTVA Facebook page said they were single parents, working more than one job, without insurance and were struggling to pay medical expenses.

Longacre said people facing those circumstances may be eligible for Medicaid which would help cover medical expenses and encourages them to apply.

Longacre also said people can apply for insurance on the Health Insurance Marketplace, also known as "Obamacare," where the federal government may help pay for premiums. While some say it's too expensive, Longacre said it's still a good idea to send in an application.

"When you apply, you don't have to sign up for a plan," she said. "So it's really good to do the application and look at all of your options because they change every year."

Longacre said plans also come with the benefit of preventive care that may help catch problems earlier like cancer or diabetes.

For people who have insurance with high deductibles, Longacre said it's helpful to let your provider know about it. She said patients can ask about discounts or payment plans and even ask questions about certain tests that a doctor might suggest.

"Maybe if a provider is recommending a series of tests to ask if those tests are necessary and be up front and clear with your provider that cost in an issue," she said.

To apply for Medicaid or the Health Insurance Marketplace, visit the government's website. For information about health insurance programs, call the Anchorage Neighborhood Health Center’s Outreach and Enrollment team at 907-743-7220 or visit the center's website.

Anyone wanting more information about healthcare resources can call the Alaska Medicare Information Office: Medicare Helpline: 1-800-478-6065 or (907) 269-3680.

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