Even Small Copayments Can Be Huge Obstacle

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By Fran Grabowski, Lead Diabetes Educator

J first came to our diabetes class with a blood glucose level of 418 mg/dl and very elevated blood pressure. In addition to her health problems, she lost her beloved job of 23 years—working in the Cherry Hill Mall giving surveys—exactly one month ago. Although she has never had health insurance, she was able to pay for her medicines and medical visits at a local Federally Qualified Healthcare Center, where a doctor visit cost her $25. She has no savings and one month after being laid off, has no money for medicine or medical visits. We found a grocery store pharmacy that has two of her medications at no cost, but her blood pressure medication will cost 3.99. Unfortunately, J has no transportation to get the free medications, nor does she have the 3.99 co-pay.

B is a shy African-American woman in her 80s who walks with a cane and cares for her nine-year-old great-grandson. She has successfully controlled her diabetes with insulin for over 30 years. She came to class last Friday and told us that she has not used her insulin for a week, because her finances are tight toward the end of the month.  She did not have the 3.99 co-pay, so she borrowed $5 from her sister-in-law and planned on going to the pharmacy the next day. She needs to find someone to take her because she does not drive.

This is the end of the month in Camden. Two people in three days could not take their medication because of a $3.99 copay.  Just $3.99.

We were able to help both people get their medications, but this will likely be a problem again next month.  We encouraged J and B to call their doctors if they cannot pay for their medications. Both of them have doctors in Camden who can provide them with some samples until they get their next monthly check. But in the long-term, we must examine the use of co-pays for medication. Even small copays are a huge obstacle to Camden healthcare.

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