When Prescription Costs Add Up, MedAssist Helps Santa Clara County Residents Afford Insulin, Inhalers and Epi-Pens | New

Henry, a resident of Santa Clara County, has had diabetes for most of his adult life and started taking insulin about three years ago to treat his condition. But between him and his wife, Mary, who are battling a number of chronic illnesses together, the medical expenses have started to pile up.

The couple heard MedAssista Santa Clara County program that helps county residents pay for specific types of medications: insulin, asthma inhalers, and epinephrine auto-injectors, also known as Epi-Pens, which deliver medication vital in case of severe allergy. reaction.

According to county data, 118,900 adults have diabetes mellitus in Santa Clara County, 257,000 adults and children have asthma, and 21,600 people are prescribed epinephrine auto-injectors.

“So we thought, well, let’s see if we qualify,” Mary said. The Voice has agreed to identify her and her husband by their middle names to protect their privacy. “We were, I think, among the first to register, so the process was very, very quick.”

Henry was accepted in the inaugural 2021-22 program year and has just re-enrolled for 2022-23, for which the county is currently accepting applications. Patients can apply until April 30, during the funding period. Once the funding runs out, the county will open a waiting list.

Qualifying and the amount of financial assistance for the program is based on the patient’s income level and health care expenses, according to Joy Alexiou, communications manager for the Santa Clara Valley Health and Hospital System.

“People with high out-of-pocket expenses receive monthly subsidies that are inversely correlated to their income levels,” Alexiou said, meaning the lower a person’s income, the higher the subsidy.

Mary said the registration process was simple: the couple had to upload a tax return, proof of purchase of Henry’s insulin and proof of county residency.

“That’s really all there was,” Mary said. “They got back to us within 24 hours. We just signed up for the second year, and it’s been a slower process, but I think there’s probably a lot more people lining up outside their door now. Once we were approved, the process was quick.

Every month, Mary said, she and Henry submit proof of purchase of her insulin to the program.

“His insulin usage is variable, so we have to think a little bit to try to make sure we’re making a purchase every month,” Mary said. “Or, alternatively, there are times when the pharmacy dispensed us much more than we expected. Turns out we can download that, and if when we downloaded it we marked it as a three month supply, then they would credit the three months.

Rising drug costs in the United States are a major barrier to access, causing some people to take their medications less frequently than prescribed, Alexiou said. Under-treatment of diabetes can hasten vision loss, end-stage kidney failure and death. To help county residents with the cost of these life-saving drugs, Supervisor Joe Simitian proposed the program, which the County Board of Supervisors approved and then soft-launched in October 2021.

“The program is specifically designed to support the ‘missing’ population that resides in Santa Clara County,” Alexiou said. “These are the people who can be enrolled in a health insurance program, however, (they) are forced to pay high fees for life-saving drugs such as insulin, asthma inhalers and / or auto -epinephrine injectors. ”

For Mary and Henry, being a MedAssist recipient means more peace of mind and less medical expense to worry about.

“It’s just nice to have this benefit, considering we have such a huge amount of medical bills to pay,” Mary said. “It’s just a nice thing to have. It’s really easy, and they’re absolutely lovely there. … You get the feeling they’re happy to help.

To apply for MedAssist, recipients must be 18 years of age or older, reside in Santa Clara County, have a valid prescription for an asthma inhaler, insulin or epinephrine auto-injector, and respect the household health expenses and the annual gross household. income requirements. More information and a link to apply can be found here.

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