by Krunal Amin
In a series of conversations with CEF members during the past few weeks, I was surprised to learn just how large of a delivery gap there is between the healthcare resources offered to those who are financially disadvantaged and the number of people who are actually positively affected by these resources. One member, who recently moved to the Chapel Hill community, told us that she often has no choice but to go to the emergency room whenever she has issues with her asthma – a common chronic condition that can usually be well controlled with drugs. When asked about her medication, she reported that the Piedmont Clinic in Carrboro filled out a prescription for her – but the medication ended up costing her around $90 so she never even bothered to pick it up. As for the cost of her multiple emergency room visits? She has a stack of bills from the hospital adding up to over $5000 that she simply can’t afford and doesn’t know how she plans on paying off. Had she known about the UNC Health Care Pharmacy Assistance Policy, she could have completed an application to prove that she qualified for financial assistance and ultimately could have reduced her $90 prescription to a much more manageable $4 co-payment, thus allowing her to not only have access the to the medication she needs to stay health but also potentially saving her thousands of dollars in medical bills. Unfortunately, applications to programs such as UNC Charity Care and Pharmacy Assistance are not always the most user-friendly forms to fill out as there are often many hoops to jump through to prove that you qualify. Additionally, many of the members we spoke with were unaware of other avenues they could be using to get better care.
In his bestselling novel, The Checklist Manifesto, surgeon and healthcare reform expert Atul Gawande points out that “medical innovation is less about discovering new inventions than it is about properly executing the ones we already have.” CEF Health is an initiative that aims to do just that by employing advocates to better connect our members to the resources they need to stay healthy. Over the course of the semester, our team has been working to compile all the healthcare resources available for financially disadvantaged members in the community. Our goal in the coming months is to train advocates in what resources are out there and how to access them in order to use them as health navigators for CEF members who are struggling to get the quality, affordable healthcare they deserve. We are excited to get this initiative off the ground, and hope that anyone interested will join us!