A local hospital system has found a possible cure for some patients who can’t afford expensive medications used to treat cancer and other costly disorders.
Since last year, Summa Health System has received more than $1.8 million worth of free medications from pharmaceutical manufacturers through a service run by Cardinal Health Inc.
The eRecovery program provides an onsite program manager, Lindsey Stephen, who reviews daily reports of uninsured patients at Summa facilities to determine whether they were given any medications that might be covered by patient assistance programs.
Stephen then gets permission from the patients to fill out the necessary forms to apply for any assistance programs offered by the drug manufacturers.
If medications are covered by a program, Summa gets free replacements and doesn’t bill the patient for the drugs dispensed, Stephen said.
“Once it’s approved, we get the medication reimbursed and I make sure that the patient won’t get charged for it,” she said.
Stephen estimates the program has helped provide free medications for 750 patients at Summa’s Akron City, St. Thomas, Barberton and Wadsworth hospitals, as well as at the health system’s outpatient facility in Medina County and home infusion service.
Ken Komorny, system director of pharmacy for Summa, said before launching the program the health system often ended up writing off the cost of many of the expensive drugs provided to uninsured patients who couldn’t afford to pay their bills.
“It was an opportunity where we were able to help patients and save quite a bit of money,” he said.
The health system pays Cardinal Health a fee, based on the number of drugs replaced through the program, Komorny said. There is no up front charge for the service.
Though he would not disclose the fee paid to Cardinal, Komorny did say “it’s a fraction of what’s recovered.”
Summa is one of about 140 hospital systems nationwide contracted with Cardinal Health for the eRecovery service, Cardinal Health spokeswoman Tara Schumacher said.
No other hospitals in Ohio are using the eRecovery service offered through Cardinal, which is headquartered in Dublin, Ohio.
Some other software programs and services are marketed by competitors.
According to Cardinal Health, the service tends to be used by hospitals with a large number of uninsured patients. Participating hospitals typically specialize in specialty care — particularly cancer care — that need expensive, brand-name drugs for complex cases.
Cheryl Powell can be reached at 330-996-3902 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Powell on Twitter at twitter.com/abjcherylpowell.