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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted at 11:52 a.m., Monday, February 3, 2003

Needy to get free prescriptions

By Robbie Dingeman
Advertiser Health Writer

Gov. Linda Lingle today announced a new public-private partnership designed to help Hawai'i's most needy residents get free prescription drugs without spending state money through a $3 million grant from the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation.

Lingle announced her support of such a program in last month's State of the State speech. She said the new program will be run in cooperation with 12 Hawai'i Health Systems Corporation state hospitals and five Hawai'i Primary Care Association primary care clinics. The Hawai'i Medical Association will provide the program's headquarters and run a call center that will be available 12 hours a day, five days a week.

Lingle said the two-year grant will enable Prescription Care Hawai'i to link low-income patients to various pharmaceutical company assistance programs that provide free medication and nutritional supplements. The program is expected to be running within six months and is projected to serve 20,000 patients within the first year, she said.

This statewide program is patterned after the successful IndiCare Program begun by Maui Memorial Medical Center in 2001 with funding from the Baldwin Foundation. The Maui IndiCare Program now serves more than 600 active patients, and has served nearly 200 others who 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," Lingle said. She said the program provides treatment and preventive care that will help keep down the overall cost of health care.

The Hawai'i State Department of Health will use the Maui program as the template for health care facilities to follow in establishing and implementing the statewide program. The state Health Department also will provide program oversight and guidance. And the department will provide an annual status report on the prescription drug assistance program, with data on the number of patients served, the program's impact on their health status, and the health care savings resulting from the program.

"Our healthcare facility members are very enthusiastic about working with the state to ensure that these needy members of our community have access to medication and the means to adhere to a nutritious diet," said Tom Driskill, president and chief executive officer, Hawai'i Health Systems Corporation.

Officials say the participating healthcare facilities can submit applications to the appropriate patient assistance program and get the medicine they need for patients. Prescription Care Hawai'i will be used after exhausting other resources for patients such as Medicaid or the Office of Veterans Affairs.

Sponsors said the program will reach people being discharged from the hospital as does the Maui program and will reach out to others.

Paula Arcena, executive director, Hawai'i Medical Association, said, "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 healthcare 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 medicine chest inventory will be available to physicians to dispense to patients served by the program.

"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.