Santa Clara County helps residents pay for prescription drugs

Santa Clara County is launching a program to help offset high prescription drug costs for residents with chronic conditions.

MedAssist will provide monthly grants to adults who rely on asthma inhalers, insulin auto-injectors or epinephrine (PPE pens) for day-to-day functioning. The county has been working on this effort for several years and has already enrolled several dozen patients at county hospitals during a soft launch last October.

“No one should ever have to choose between the food on the table and their prescription medication, but that choice is made every day,” Dr. Narinder Singh, director of pharmacy services at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, told Conference. Tuesday press release. “MedAssist will help us close this gap.”

According to the county, more than 20% of South Bay residents, or 400,000 people, have asthma, diabetes or have been prescribed a PPE pen. About 100,000 people are eligible for the program.

Prescription drug costs have skyrocketed over the past decade, making it difficult for many patients to obtain the medications they need. Even with health insurance, some patients are paying more than $400 in copayments for their medications, county officials said.

“If we can make it easier for people to pay for their expensive prescriptions, we can not only help them financially, but we can also help them make sure they don’t miss a dose and achieve better health outcomes at long term,” County Supervisor Joe Simitian said.

Robert Donovan, a patient enrolled in MedAssist, said the program helps him pay for his inhalers which are essential to his health. Photo by Tran Nguyen.

The county has a budget of $1 million for the first year of the program. Officials hope to enroll 1,000 patients in the coming months.

To be eligible, a patient must be at least 18 years old and a county resident. The patient must have a valid prescription for asthma inhalers, insulin or PPE pens and meet the income requirement. A family of four earning $241,000 would qualify for the program.

County officials said the program could save lives — and change lives — because it helps patients stick to their medication plans, potentially reducing the number of trips to the emergency room. County doctors also said the grant would ease the financial burden faced by many patients in the county, adding another layer of security for those with health conditions.

“These drugs save lives,” said Dr. Gerardo Solorio-Cortes of Valley Health Center Gilroy. “Not only that, they prevent emergency room visits, hospitalizations, complications and deaths.”

Robert Donovan, who needs inhalers among other medications, is one of several dozen people already enrolled in MedAssist.

“Over the years, I find that the cost of my medications, including inhalers, has increased dramatically,” Donovan said. “If I didn’t have help from the MedAssist program, I would have to cut back on basic expenses, like food, to be able to afford the inhalers I can’t live without.”

County officials said the program is a grassroots effort to help residents because change and reform are slow at the federal level.

“The people I represent can’t wait,” Simitian said. “They have a problem here right now. We waited a long time. We can’t wait any longer.

Click here to learn more about the program:

Contact Tran Nguyen at [email protected] or follow @nguyenntrann on Twitter.

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