PrescriptionEase Program for Underserved

Program Eases Patients’ Prescription Worries

Joyce never imagined she would be a widow in her mid-50’s. Her husband had been a small business owner and when he passed away, she was left alone and in charge of the struggling company. Despite her most valiant efforts, however, she lost the business. Suddenly, she was without either a source of income or health benefits.

The stress took its toll, and Joyce had a heart attack. But she couldn’t afford either insurance or health care services.

“I was at a loss. I didn’t know what to do,” Joyce said. “I knew I didn’t have the money to pay for medications, let alone the hospital bill. It was a scary time.” During her hospital discharge process, Joyce’s nurse told her about Mount Carmel PrescriptionEase.

The program was created ten years ago to clear roadblocks that may prevent Mount Carmel patients and physicians from accessing pharmaceutical companies’ assistance programs. The good part is that most drug companies allow eligible patients to participate free of charge in their programs. The bad part, however, is that navigating the paperwork and processes to be approved and enrolled can be quite complex. That’s where PrescriptionEase comes in.

“We specialize in identifying pharmaceutical assistance program opportunities for prescription drugs and ensuring that participants have ongoing access to the medications they need for health and well-being,” said Program Director, Jane Cook.

Through PrescriptionEase, Joyce was able to get all six of her doctor-prescribed medicines, including Plavix™, free of charge. “Without the PrescriptionEase program, I would never be able to afford these medicines,” she said. “The staff is fabulous. They even handle all of the refills each month. I wouldn’t know what to do without them.”

Paul is a participant who had a stroke on his birthday in 2008. A pizza deliverer for 30 years, he says it is all he knows how to do. Like Joyce, he was able to obtain Plavix free of charge, and he wrote a note of thanks to the program: “I know these meds are very expensive. I don’t know what I would have done without this help. I wish someday I would be able to return the favor.”

Return on Investment

Funded entirely by grants from the Mount Carmel Foundation, PrescriptionEase has resulted in a 300 percent return on investment, according to Cook.

“We calculate that we have eliminated approximately $11.9 million in charity costs for Mount Carmel by preventing hospital readmissions due to medication non-compliance,” she said.

In fact, a nearly two-year study by a third-party consulting firm showed a correlation between a participant’s date of enrollment in PrescriptionEase and a decrease in hospital services used.

“In the Medication/Patient Assistance industry, this type of study is rare. We are very glad to have had the opportunity to confirm these realities and are prouder still of the results of our response,” Cook said. “In fact, I am now being asked to teach or mentor other hospitals and communities around the country about how to start up a program like PrescriptionEase. They realize it only benefits patients in need, but also greatly reduces charity care dollars and readmission rates.”

Groceries vs. Medicine

PrescriptionEase complements the Medication Assistance Programs (MAP) in place at Mount Carmel’s four hospitals. While the MAPs are for inpatients, PrescriptionEase is a “community” program that serves those who are being discharged from the hospital, those who receive hospital outpatient services, and patients of physicians affiliated with Mount Carmel.

In fiscal year 2014, PrescriptionEase served 389 patients and saved them more than $1 million in retail medication costs. Over its ten-year tenure, the program has assisted 3,494 underserved patients with savings of more than $9 million.

But it’s not just money that is being saved. Participants say that the emotional relief gained by knowing they will have their needed medications is priceless.

One participant noted, “Aside from the huge financial ease - the emotional ease is even greater!”

Yet another said, “Before this program took effect for us and we had to purchase my medications, the only way we could do it was by not paying utility bills and watching what was spent on groceries. That’s a real worry.”

But not any longer.