A Bitter Pill

WHEELING – Wheeling Health Right is receiving free shipments of medicines that will help about 1,200 of its patients dealing with high blood pressure, chronic respiratory problems and infections.

The medicines are being provided by drug maker Boehringer Ingelheim’s Cares Foundation and will benefit patients without health insurance, said Executive Director Kathie Brown. In the past, Health Right had to apply for drugs for each patient, but now it is receiving them in bulk. The drugs are being distributed by AmeriCares to clinics in West Virginia, Ohio, Florida, Texas and Connecticut.

“This will be a huge time saver,” Brown said, adding the clinic will receive the medicines on an ongoing basis.

Two of the respiratory medicines include Combivent, which would cost $315.82 for a month’s supply, and Spiriva, which would cost $1011.42 per month.

Brown noted because of the federal Affordable Care Act, often referred to as Obamacare, 10,000 of the clinic’s 20,000 patients are now enrolled into the Medicaid program. But there are other patients, she added, that have discovered they cannot afford the deductibles in the health care insurance Marketplace.

“There’s a population of people … that didn’t qualify because they made too much money, but not enough to buy insurance,” Brown said. “After careful study they evaluated it and felt for this year they opted to pay the penalty.”

Brown said other patients told her when they entered the Marketplace to purchase insurance they did not realize there was going to be a deductible ranging between $1,700 and $5,000 per year. When they went to the doctor’s office many were told they had to pay $200 up front.

“They said, ‘I don’t have $200,'” Brown added.

Brown said by 2017, about 16 million people are estimated to still be uninsured.

“We’re seeing people who really struggle, who can’t afford it, who just can’t do it,” Brown said. “Our patients who are working one to two part-time jobs, because of the act … their employers took them down to 25 hours so they don’t have to pay for health insurance.”