Pharmacist and another woman looking at medications on the pharmacy's shelf

With so many people losing their jobs and health insurance during the COVID-19 pandemic, many individuals and families may be unable to pay for their prescriptions.

"As pharmacists and clinicians, there is nothing more important to us than to help those in need, especially the poor and vulnerable. If you have lost your job, don't have prescription insurance or are struggling financially, we may be able to help,” said Rony Foumia, RPH, Area Director of Retail Pharmacy, Ascension Michigan and Ascension Indiana.

To care for those most vulnerable during the pandemic, the Ascension team dedicated to overcoming medication disparities, led by Patrick Leinauer, Senior Manager, Ascension Patient Medication Assistance Program, quickly set up a toll-free hotline to help identify persons struggling to afford their medications. The hotline (833-980-2352) gives Ascension providers and associates direct access to a team specifically trained to guide individuals to solutions that can help make medications more affordable for those who qualify.

"Our team wanted to set up an easy platform to help associates refer patients, allowing caregivers to serve persons in need during this crisis. We are here to support Ascension associates and their family members who may need help, too. We want them to know we are here to assist in any way we can," said Leinauer. “We’re just happy to provide a service that is so deeply rooted in the Ascension Mission.”

Since the hotline opened March 31, it has received an average of more than a dozen calls per day. Referrals have led to significant increases in patients signing up for Copay Assistance Programs and Free Drug Programs, potentially generating tens of millions of dollars in patient assistance from pharmaceutical suppliers and insurers.

In addition to the hotline, another available solution is Ascension Pharmacy’s partnership with Dispensary of Hope, a charitable medication distributor dedicated to providing pharmacies and safety-net clinics with reliable access to vital medications. This partnership, which exists in most Ascension markets, lets patients without insurance receive access to a wide formulary of medications.

“If you qualify, you could receive medications on the formulary free of charge. So don’t wait to let us know if you or someone you know needs medication assistance,” said Foumia.

As a result of COVID-19, the requirements for obtaining prescriptions through Dispensary of Hope have been relaxed through Dec. 31:

  1. Patients may temporarily forego submitting documents to demonstrate their level of income.
  2. If a patient recently had a change in job status due to COVID-19 and is uninsured, the eligibility forms have been edited to request current household income and will focus on the next 12 months of earnings instead of the prior year’s.
  3. The initial application can now be completed over the phone without the patient’s signature; a staff member can sign for them.

If you’re in need or know someone without prescription medication benefits, contact one of Ascension’s Dispensary of Hope dispensing sites. Visit https://www.dispensaryofhope.org/access-site-finder for a list of nearby locations.