Gov. Linda Lingle announced today a new public-private partnership aimed at helping Hawaii’s most needy get access to prescription drugs without tapping the state’s strained budget. “Prescription Care Hawaii,” funded primarily with a $3 million grant from the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, will attempt to connect low-income patience to existing drug company assistance programs that provide free medication.
The program is modeled after a Maui Memorial Medical Center program launched in 2001 through another foundation grant. The Maui program now serves more than 600 patients, and has served nearly 200 more that no longer require assistance.
“Building on the Maui program’s success, we have brought together the public, private and community sectors to expand the program to serve those individuals and families throughout the state who are most in need of immediate help,” Gov. Lingle said. “This is both a treatment program for our low-income residents, and a preventative measure to keep the overall cost of health care down.”
Prescription Care Hawaii available after patients have exhausted funding sources from programs such as Medicaid or the Office of Veterans Services will be administered in cooperation with 12 state hospitals and five primary care clinics afilliated with the Hawaii Primary Care Association. The Hawaii Medical Association will provide the program’s headquarters and staff a call center that will be operate 12 hours a day, five days a week.
In its announcement, the governor’s office said the state Department of Health also use the Maui program as a template for health care facilities in establishing and implementing the statewide program, providing program oversight and guidance. In addition, the department will provide an annual status report on the program, with specific data on the number of patients served, the program’s impact on their health status, and the health care savings resulting from the program.
“Prescription Care Hawaii will ensure that people who need immediate medication and health care assistance will receive treatment, while minimizing the need for costly emergency care or inpatient confinement,” said Paula Arcena, executive director of the Hawaii Medical Association. “By expanding on the success of the Maui model, we can reach out to the low-income, aged, and indigent populations statewide who don’t have other viable health care alternatives.”
In addition to the patient assistance program, patients will have access to a “medicine chest” that will include medications and nutritional supplements donated by pharmacy representatives, the announcement noted. The medicine chest inventory will be readily available for physicians to dispense to patients served by the program.
“Prescription Care Hawaii is a great example of how well a public-private partnership can work to benefit the community, and the Weinberg Foundation is pleased to be part of this cooperative solution that will give our state’s most needy the means to maintain their health and their dignity,” said Lisa Okuhata, general manager of the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation.
The statewide program will be implemented in phases, beginning with an immediate expansion of the Maui Memorial program, establishment of the HMA call center, and several new distribution sites on O`ahu as well as the neighbor islands. The next phase will include the establishment of the remaining distribution sites statewide.
The program is expected to be fully operational within six months and is projected to serve 20,000 patients within the first year.