Health Impacts from Natural Disasters

The Southwest United States were recently hit with the devastating Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma recently swept through the Caribbean and Southeast. In the wake of such natural disasters, we can sometimes feel lost even as the risks persist around us. Flooding, destruction from wind, and damage to the healthcare system’s infrastructure can lead to many public health concerns. For those traveling into these areas or helping those impacted by these storms, there are many hazards to be aware of.

 

Key West, Florida during Hurricane Dennis, 2005At time of writing, Hurricane Harvey has been held responsible for 70 deaths in Texas and Hurricane Irma has killed 12 in U.S. and over 35 in the Caribbean islands. Injuries are a serious concern in areas with floodwaters, as bacterial infection becomes likely and potentially dangerous. The clearing of debris and returning to evacuated areas can include electrical hazards, weakened structures from wind or water damage, or gas leaks. Air quality is affected in enclosed space by mold, and toxic air pollution can be given off by refineries and chemical plants negatively impacting large areas. Older adults, people with asthma or other chronic lung conditions, and those with compromised immune systems may develop inflammation and other ailments from poor air quality.

 

Ordinary health problems can range from sunburns to insect bites. People may get dehydrated if they run out of potable water, or could get an upset stomach if they drink contaminated water. Communicable diseases can also be prevalent in shelters due to the large number of displaced people in a confined space. Often overlooked health issues include the mental health of those impacted by natural disasters. The “crisis mode” that develops from losing one’s home can cause shock and trouble sleeping and can lead to anxiety, depression, or a diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

 

An extenuating circumstance created by natural disasters is the impact on the healthcare system’s infrastructure. Impassable roads can make ambulance response difficult if not impossible. Houston, TX is a hub for hospital and medical services in the Southwest United States and many were devastated by floodwaters, especially smaller specialty facilities. Patients in need of dialysis or other care due to a chronic illness can be incredibly vulnerable can experience life-threathening delays in their treatment. In the wake of Hurricane Irma, Florida hospitals are experiencing a deluge of emergency room visits while smaller clinics and health centers remain closed.

 

NeedyMeds has limited resources for those recovering from natural disasters, but we do have databases of free/low-cost/sliding-scale clinics to help find care in a potentially unfamiliar area and of Diagnosis-Based Assistance for those having difficulty with chronic health conditions. If you have been impacted by the recent hurricanes or another natural disaster, contact your local health department or the Red Cross for immediate help.

20 Years of NeedyMeds

NeedyMeds is celebrating twenty years since starting as a website for those seeking assistance with the high-costs of prescription medications. In 1997, Richard Sagall, MD, and Libby Overly, MSW, MEd, both realized a need for a centralized resource for information on pharmaceutical Patient Assistance Programs (PAPs). Over our first ten years, we gained 501(3)(c) non-profit status, introduced our PAPTracker software for advocates helping patients with PAP applications, and started our first newsletter Patient Advocate News (now known as Patient Assistance News; aka PAN).

In 2007, we began to expand the website from more than just Patient Assistance Programs to include government programs and other application assistance providers. The following year we grew to include databases of free/low-cost/sliding-scale clinics, coupons for medications, and other organizations that provide diagnosis-based assistance. The NeedyMeds Drug Discount Card started in 2009, saving users $560,000 in its first year nationwide. To date, the NeedyMeds Drug Discount Card has saved users over $214 million on prescribed medications. We later introduced the Drug Discount Card as a smartphone app, making it more easily accessible to those in need.

We launched the NeedyMeds Toll-free Helpline in 2013, making our information available to those without internet access, as well as this very blog. We now have several newsletters, sending out weekly and daily emails about the updates made to programs in our databases for subscribers.

NM20thWe have grown from the beginnings of two people wanting to help patients with prescription costs to a staff of nearly 30 people, plus local volunteers in our office and volunteers across the country helping communities and presenting at conferences the many resources NeedyMeds has for all manner of healthcare related costs for those in need. Ideally, NeedyMeds’ services would not be necessary and people through the United States would be able to afford their healthcare without assistance; but so long as there are people in need we will be here as an information resource.

The NeedyMeds website has databases of Patient Assistance Programs (PAPs), Diagnosis-Based Assistance (DBAs), and Free/Low-cost/Sliding-scale Clinics to help those in need. The NeedyMeds Drug Discount Card can save users up to 80% off the cash price of prescription medications for those without insurance or choose to use the card instead of insurance. For more help finding information, call our toll-free helpline Monday-Friday 9am-5pm Eastern Time at 1-800-503-6897.

National Health Center Week

This week is National Health Center Week. As health care has become more and more expensive, the need for low-cost health care has increased. Many people living in more rural parts of the country have a very limited number of options to see a doctor, and depending on their insurance status the number of available “in-network” doctors is even lower. Many people do not regularly see their doctor, only seeking help when a more serious condition arises. It can be a scary situation to be uninsured and have an unforeseen medical problem come up. This week is meant to celebrate and raise awareness of local community owned and operated clinics providing high quality, cost effective, accessible care to more than 25 million Americans.

medical clinic signOne of the most popular sections of the NeedyMeds website is our listing of Free, Low-Cost, and Sliding-Scale Clinics. We list three different types of clinics on NeedyMeds.org. The first are free clinics, which provide services at no cost to the patient. The second are low-cost clinics that usually have a low flat-fee for all patients or types of visit. The third are sliding-scale clinics; the price for these clinics is based on the patient’s ability to pay, and is usually derived from their income and family size as it relates to the federal poverty level.

Each clinic offers a different variety of services. Many clinics are just medical clinics and do not offer any other services, and there are also many strictly dental clinics. There are plenty of clinics, however, that offer a wide array of services. Some services include women’s health, mental health, family planning, STD testing, vision, pediatrics, podiatry and pharmacy services among others. Each clinic also has its own hours, and may only serve select towns or counties.

Every clinic also has its own set of eligibility requirements. In most cases these requirements deal with insurance status, income, and residence status. Some clinics require that the patient has no insurance whatsoever while others work with both the uninsured and underinsured. Many clinics accept patients on Medicare and Medicaid—but not all. Sliding-scale clinics in general have an income requirement based on the federal poverty level, making the clinic only available to those under a certain annual income. There are also many clinics that have no income requirements.

We list over 15,000 clinics on NeedyMeds, making it easy to find one near you. From the Free Clinics page, either click on Medical or Dental clinics depending on your needs, and then select your state or type in your ZIP code to find a clinic in your area. A list of local clinics will appear with contact information, as well as eligibility requirements, services, and hours. You can print out a selection of clinics or the entire page of clinics from your search. We encourage users to check the clinic’s website for any additional information. You can also get the information from our toll-free helpline at 1-800-503-6897, available 9am to 5pm Monday through Friday.

Pack Health: A New Resource for Personalized Support

Needymeds exists to help you get healthcare costs under control. We know you need additional resources to make sense of healthcare —  that’s the whole point of the NeedyMeds Voice.

But what we don’t always talk about is the importance of finding your own voice. Do you ever find yourself with lingering questions? Do you ever have trouble holding yourself accountable? Do you ever fail to speak up?

 

We recently discovered a resource that supports individuals on a one-on-one basis, where a health coach comes right alongside you to keep you motivated and get your questions answered in your day-to-day life. It’s called Pack Health, and it’s a digital coaching service. This means they can reach you wherever you are and on your schedule – on the phone, online, or both.

 

These people get what you’re going through, and they’ll help you with everything from exercise and nutrition to budgeting and logistics. You set the goal, they’ll help you get there. It’s that simple.

We reached out, and they’ve opened up a special opportunity for our community. We were able to reserve 100 free spots for members with the following diagnoses:

  • Rheumatoid Arthritis

  • Psoriasis

  • MS

  • COPD

  • Cancer

 

That’s 3 months of sponsored support, no credit card information required, fully funded through grants received by Pack Health.

Sign up here and let us know how it goes: https://packhealth.com/needymeds/

packhealth

Better Care Reconciliation Act

We have been tracking the new healthcare bill being proposed by the U.S. House of Representatives, the American Health Care Act (AHCA). After passing the House last month, the bill was sent to the United States Senate where it was redrafted into the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA), which they are planning on holding the vote for after the July 4th recess. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has released their analysis report on the BCRA’s impact on the Federal deficit and American’s premiums and insurance status.

 

Previous CBO scores for Affordable Care Act (ACA) repeal/replace bills have shown millions of Americans would lose health insurance while premiums rise for several years before falling, primarily for the healthiest and youngest Americans while older people and those with pre-existing conditions could see much higher healthcare costs. The analysis of the most recent bill concurs that 49 million Americans under 65 years old would be without health insurance (compared to the projected 28 million under the Affordable Care Act). The CBO also cuts funding to Medicaid by $772 billion over the next ten years; enrollment is expected to fall by more than 15 million people by 2026, 57% of which covers children or disabled Americans.

dollar-1175293_640As found in previous reports, premiums are expected to rise leading up to 2020. Premiums would rise an average of 74%, with Americans under 18 years old seeing a 10% increase in premiums while they would more than double for those 55 and older. Analysis also found poverty level would impact premiums, with those below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) seeing an increase between 82% to 294% based on age (older Americans paying the most) and those above two times the FPL experiencing smaller increases but still seeing those over 55 paying almost double for their insurance premiums.

 

As with previous versions of the bill, minimum standards of care are expected to be diminished while annual and lifetime limits on insurance benefits would make a return to pre-ACA circumstances. The costs of insurance would be higher for less benefit, while the most vulnerable—the elderly, those in poverty, and those with pre-existing conditions—won’t be able to afford substantial coverage, or could have their coverage cancelled if they exceed a certain amount of medical expenses in a given year or even within their lifetimes.

 

There will be further developments in the American Health Care Act/Better Care Reconciliation Act and any repeal or changes to the Affordable Care Act, and we at NeedyMeds will try to keep up-to-date on the details. We at NeedyMeds prefer to remain apolitical—we work in a diverse office with people of varying backgrounds and views—but we believe in being informed and that those in need deserve care. It should be clear that NeedyMeds supports improved access to care as well as lower costs for medications and healthcare services for all.

NeedyMeds also encourages Americans to be active in the legislative process: If you have an opinion on the AHCA/BCRA or the future of healthcare in the United States, call 202-224-3121 to reach the U.S. Capitol switchboard; from there you can be connected to your elected House Representative or Senator’s office.

 

We at NeedyMeds will continue to provide information as the need for assistance navigating the often expensive landscape of health care rises. The NeedyMeds website has databases of Patient Assistance Programs (PAPs), Diagnosis-Based Assistance (DBAs), and Free/Low-cost/Sliding-scale Clinics to help those in need. The NeedyMeds Drug Discount Card can save users up to 80% off the cash price of prescription medications for those without insurance or choose to use the card instead of insurance. In addition to the plastic card, the card is available in a printable form or a smartphone app for Apple and Android devices. For more help finding information, call our toll-free helpline Monday-Friday 9am-5pm Eastern Time at 1-800-503-6897.

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