Even with the expansion of Medicaid and the roll-out of the Affordable Care Act, there are an estimated 750,000 Illinoisans (of which 500,000 reside in Cook County) who are part of the 13 million Americans who do not have health coverage. It should also be noted that according to a 2012 study by the Commonwealth Fund, one in four U.S. adults have avoided filling a prescription because they couldn’t afford it. On top of that, a 2015 Kaiser Family survey found that 24 percent of the respondents said that they or a family member had skipped filing a prescription and 19 percent had skipped doses due to costs.
To address this, the Hektoen Institute of Medicine is working with the Supporting Initiatives to Redistribute Unused Medicine (SIRUM) to help mitigate the barriers to donating unused medicine in Illinois with a focus on assisting Illinois free, volunteer health clinics.
SIRUM (www.Sirum.org) is a not-for-profit based in the San Francisco, CA area that has been called the “Match.com’ for unused medicine. It uses an innovative technology platform to allow health facilities, manufacturers, wholesalers, and pharmacies to donate unused medicine rather than destroy it. Typically, unused medicine is destroyed in landfills, incinerators and even residential toilets.
Because SIRUM makes donations quick, easy, and free, most organizations not only save lives by donating their medications, but also save time and money over destruction which is often costly and time-consuming.
The SIRUM platform enables closed, safe, peer-to-peer redistribution of medications that includes drugs used to treat chronic illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease and for mental-health conditions. Unlike traditional drug redistribution programs that rely on intermediaries, SIRUM connects donor facilities directly with recipient safety-net clinics.
SIRUM currently operates in California, Oregon, Colorado and Ohio where they have distributed/donated $4.3 million in medications to benefit roughly 80,000 patients. They are also in the process of operating in New York, New Jersey and Iowa. To operate in Illinois, the state’s Good Samaritan Law will need to be amended. Hektoen is currently developing a coalition of like-minded organizations to support the legislative changes that would help SIRUM and other entities that want to responsibly redistribute unused medicine to volunteer health clinics.
Volunteer health clinics are somewhat unrecognized and to a certain extent unappreciated. Of those volunteer clinics designated “Free and charitable clinics” they provide medical, dental and pharmaceutical services at either no cost or at a nominal fee to low-income individuals without health insurance. When fees are charged, they typically range from $10 – $20 for medical visits and $20 – $60 for routine dental services. For prescriptions provided from either a dispensary or a licensed pharmacy, fees per prescription range from $5 through $20. It should be stressed that no patient will be denied if they cannot pay a requested fee. In Illinois:
- The overwhelming majority of clinics target adults who are uninsured, low income, and do not qualify for Medicaid or Medicare;
- Illinois’ free and charitable clinics are generally not eligible to participate in Medicaid at this time;
- 80 percent of patients are between the ages of 46 and 65 years old; and
- Serve patients of which approximately 55% live below 100% of the federal poverty leveland 91% live below 200% of the federal poverty level.
For more information on this initiative, contact Hektoen government relations consultant Levi Moore at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 312-972-0900.