by Cathy Miller, community impact director, United Way of Madison County, Alabama
? The United Way of Madison County, Alabama, has been able to raise awareness of FamilyWize as a much-needed resource in the community.
? Cathy Miller, the community impact director, has seen firsthand how the card can offer savings to the un- and under-insured.
? Since introducing FamilyWize to Madison County 12 years ago, the community has saved over $1.3 million in prescription drugs.
Even in a more affluent community, you have seniors who are struggling and people who might have to choose, this month, between prescription medications and food. That’s not right. And, honestly, I know what it can feel like.
Six years ago, my husband retired and I was still working as a consultant. Overnight, we went from having health insurance through his employer to suddenly not having anything at all. We couldn’t afford COBRA health coverage, and he needed five different blood-pressure medications.
We tried to constrict our budget every way we could—no little luxuries, shopping sales for groceries, always cooking and eating at home—but we just couldn’t stretch our monthly income to make it work. It wasn’t life-or-death for him to take every medication every day, but thinking about skipping prescriptions or cutting the pills in half was so hard. There’s no question we would have compromised his health.
Someone told me about FamilyWize, a free discount card you can use at a number of major pharmacies to pay much less for your prescription medications. I almost couldn’t believe how easy it was—or what a difference it made in our pharmacy bills. For four months, we used that discount card to keep my husband on his medications. And at the same time, I was hired into a full-time role and after a few months my employer-sponsored insurance started.
Now, I work at United Way, and I get to spread more awareness about FamilyWize. When we first started offering the cards, about 12 years ago, we saw $1,000 in savings in the community. Last year, people saved $406,000. And over those dozen years, the total savings is more than $1.3 million. Some Madison County residents are seniors or low-income or part-time workers. Some just don’t have health insurance or are trying to white-knuckle their way through a one- or two- or three-month waiting period until their health coverage starts at a new job. There’s no income limit on the FamilyWize program, and I think that’s so important.
And because I know and I’ve seen firsthand the difference this discount program can make in people’s lives, I’m not passive about promoting it. When the box of 10,000 FamilyWize cards arrives in our office regularly, we don’t just set the box out. We bundle the cards into stacks of 50, so partner groups can more easily grab a stack and share them with their members. And we encourage people to talk about the program; most people don’t even know to search for a pharmacy discount program, so word of mouth is crucial.
Recently, at one of the local charities, Christmas Charities Year Round, a grandfather came in to pick up school clothes for the two granddaughters he’s raising. He looked a little piqued, so the staff asked how he was doing. Turns out, he’s diabetic but had stopped taking his insulin medication because he couldn’t afford the cost.
“I’ve got to take care of these babies,” he said, “and that matters more than my meds.” He wasn’t thinking about the long-term impact of neglecting his diabetes or the real, immediate risk of going into a diabetic coma. One of the staff members put a FamilyWize discount card in his hand and drove him right then to the nearest Walgreens. What was usually $85 cost him, instead, $15 thanks to FamilyWize.
“I can do $15,” he said. And he went home that afternoon with a month’s worth of medication.
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