Sheila Hall of Southwest Harbor has her eyesight today not as a result of a cutting-edge medical procedure but because of a creative approach to paying for her prescriptions. “I’d go blind if I didn’t have it” she said of Mount Desert Island Hospital’s Prescription Assistance Program that connects patients with a variety of pharmaceutical assistance programs.
Hall and many others in the community receive their prescriptions free of charge directly from pharmaceutical manufacturers. Since its inception in 2007, 1,959 prescriptions have been acquired through the program with a wholesale value of $1,001,525. The retail value of these prescriptions is estimated at two to three times the wholesale value for a total retail savings to patients of $2-3 million.
MDI Hospital’s prescription assistance program helps patients navigate free or discounted drug programs at more than 400 pharmaceutical manufacturers and retailers. Because each manufacturer has different eligibility and application requirements, the process to receive free medication can be daunting for patients. That’s where MDI Hospital’s prescription assistance coordinator Pat Buccello can help. “It’s a very paperwork intensive program,” she said. “We work with the patient and their doctor to find medications that are covered by a free program.” Although television ads for many pharmaceuticals end with a line ‘if you need help paying for your medications, XYZ Pharmaceuticals may be able to help,’ Buccello says some companies work exclusively with hospital or provider-based patient advocates.
Prescription assistance is typically offered for long-term medications that are used for diabetic care, cardiac conditions, blood pressure, behavioral health management, or other chronic conditions. Short-term medications such as antibiotics or pain medications are not available through the assistance program. Drug companies provide the medications free of charge, but staffing and administration of the program is funded entirely by MDI Hospital as part of its overall commitment to health and wellness of the community.
According to Buccello, many of her clients might skip their medication, split pills, or take less than the prescribed amount because of the cost of the drugs, which could have dire effects on their health. “If some of these patients didn’t take their medication, they could end up in the emergency room,” she said. “This program helps keep them healthier.” In Sheila Hall’s case, the medications she receives through the program help prevent her vision and other health maladies from worsening.
Many patients in the program are referred by their primary care physicians, as was the case for Hall. The program was just getting off the ground, she said, when her physician, Dr. Lee Haynes, gave her an application. “Dr. Haynes realized that I may be eligible and I appreciate it so much,” she said. “When it happened I actually cried. It’s just wonderful.”
In addition to referrals from patients’ primary care physicians, Buccello meets with groups and individuals at area churches and food pantries and is a frequent presenter at community organizations to help get the word out about options for eligible patients. She guides them through the process to complete insurance, income, and other eligibility requirements. Once accepted, patients typically are enrolled for one year. After that time she helps patients coordinate refills, which may or may not be through the free program. “If we can’t get it through the free program we can direct them to the best price.”
To learn more about MDI Hospital’s prescription assistance program, contact Buccello at 801-5111.