340B card helps lower drug costs, helps others

Gail Parsons • Reflector-Chronicle

Pharmacy Technician Emily Chaput counts pills at Patterson Health Care Tuesday afternoon. Patterson pharmacy, as well as Auburn pharmacies on Buckeye and Broadway, and Trapp Pharmacy all participate in the 340B Prescription Drug program administered through Heartland Health Care Clinic to help local residents afford their medications.

For the uninsured and the underinsured, the costs of medical treatment don’t stop with a doctor’s visit and the diagnosis. The next stop, if the funds are available, is the pharmacy, where the cost of treatment can be prohibitive.

Heartland Health Care Clinic has a program to help bring the prescriptions closer to an affordable range for many people. At the same time, people who do have prescription coverage can benefit others in the community simply by having the card.

“It’s a government program intended to help with pharmaceutical costs,” said Kimberly Smith, director of clinic operations at Heartland Health Care Clinic. “A lot of medications are expensive for people, so anything that we can do to make it more affordable to increase access for folks, in my book, is a good thing.”

All four pharmacies in Abilene participate in the program. Patients who have an initial qualifying visit with a Heartland provider can get a card in about two minutes.

“Our providers are the primary care doctors,” she said. “(After the patient has the card) they are able to potentially purchase medication at a discount as opposed to the full retail price.”

While not all medications are covered under 340B, the most common ones generally are.

When people who have prescription coverage bring their card to the pharmacy, they could be helping their neighbors who are struggling to meet their healthcare needs.

When customers go to the pharmacy and present the 340B and their insurance card — if there is a difference between what insurance pays and what the 340B price is, that difference goes into a pool of funds to go toward financial aid to help other Dickinson County residents.

In 2015, the program returned $260,000 to the Memorial Health System, and the hospital spent $335,739 on charity care, said Kim Stivers, MHS director of marketing and communications.

“It is nice to have a program that really does help folks,” she said. “We can support our local pharmacies, we can support our local healthcare, and we can help our patients all with the same program.”

Smith explained if someone with insurance and the 340B card has a prescription, that is less expensive with the 340B, they could purchase it at the 340B price.

“If your insurance co-pay is less, you would just pay the co-pay,” she explained. “As long as the co-pay is less than what the regular medication would cost, even with 340B, that difference is what goes into the pot for the community.” 

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