Rx Partnership Fights To Make Medications Affordable For All Virginians

by | Jul 25, 2019 | VIRGINIA NEWS

Life uninhibited by the financial strain of healthcare: Rx Partnership works to provide Virginians with affordable medications across the state. 

Since 2003, Virginia nonprofit Rx Partnership and their associated clinics have helped provide access to free prescription medicine to over 68,000 uninsured Virginians, totalling over $150 million in retail value. 

Rx Partnership accomplished this feat by facilitating a relationship between pharmaceutical companies and 26 free clinics throughout Virginia, donating medicines in bulk to bring affordable care to folks throughout the Commonwealth. Through the process, the nonprofit has received donated prescription drugs from companies such as Merck, Novartis, GlaxoSmithKline, AbbVie, and Pfizer. 

“A lot of folks are being helped right now by Medicaid expansion, but at the same time, there are folks that make a little too much to qualify for that,” explained Amy Yarcich, Executive Director of Rx Partnership. “They’re not so well off that they can just open their wallet and afford an inhaler for their asthma for $125.”

Heads of households — who often work multiple jobs, providing for their families and putting food on the table — are the usual focus of these clinics. A recurring dilemma faced by these caregivers is the choice between medication for themselves and groceries for their family. 

“We look at it like [this]: the healthier the caregiver is, the better it is for the family,” said Yarcich.

Acting as a middle man, Rx Partnership cuts out expenses for clinics by buying prescription drugs. With the costs taken care of, individuals covered under PAP (Patient Assistance Programs for low-income people and those with no prescription insurance coverage) can receive treatment — and clinics are able to concentrate on serving more patients. 

“We keep a laser focus on medication access, and what we can do on a statewide scale,” said Yarcich. “That helps free up the clinics to really focus on patient care, and doing what they do best.” 

With 26 affiliated free clinics, Rx Partnership serves the whole Virginia community with licensed pharmacies. Each clinic is well-equipped with screening processes, which help them look at the income, household size, and access to insurance of their patients. This screening process is crucial to keeping the whole system running effectively, and to making sure those who need prescription medicine the most are able to get it at no cost. 

CrossOver Ministry receives support from Rx Partnership, and is the only free clinic in Richmond with a licensed on-site pharmacy. In order to qualify as a new non-Medicaid patient at CrossOver Ministries, patients must be at or below 200% of the federal poverty level and have no form of insurance. 

Their clinic serves a diverse part of the community, and saw over 6,000 patients in 2016, providing 49,000 prescriptions. Led by Leo Ross, a decade-long volunteer at the pharmacy, a staff of 24 pharmacists help in handing out more than $10 million in medications to the community. These medications provide uninsured individuals with the life-saving medications needed to function in their community, and to live life uninhibited by the financial strain of their health. 

In Richmond, CrossOver Ministry provides a variety of care for patients in one convenient location. All in one building, they provide services ranging from dental to vision health, HIV testing, and mental health services. By keeping all of their facilities under one roof, CrossOver Ministry is able to foster intimate relationships in a close knit community. 

“They know the names of the front desk staff, and there’s a relationship there,” said Yarcich. “That’s really important.” 

Thanks to the work of Rx Partnership, these clinics are able to help the vulnerable Americans who miss out on the benefits of health insurance. For the most part, patients are between the ages of 18 and 64. Those younger than 18 benefit from programs that help minors get insurance, and those older than 64 benefit from Medicare. It’s the patients stuck in the middle that Rx Partnership focuses on. 

Often times, individuals at the clinics are suffering from chronic conditions that make it impossible to operate at 100 percent — so even if they do go to work, both their families and their careers are damaged in the process. 

Yarich recalled several of their patients’ stories, in particular focusing on chronic illness that prevented them from going to work. An unemployed man, who suffered from several chronic conditions, was unable to afford his medication. Because of the assistance he received from the program, he was able to get back on his feet; he even started supporting his family and taking care of his kids again. She shared a similar tale of a woman in the same situation who was able to afford both her medication and her children’s Christmas presents thanks to the clinic. 

Along with their continuous fight to increase pharmaceutical company donations, Rx Partnership works to raise awareness of their organization’s services to patients across Virginia. At the moment, specific medications are donated through established programs and contracts between the nonprofit and medication companies — but there is still a swath of medications from generic manufacturers that would benefit the public just as much (if not more). 

In the future, Rx Partnership wants to start helping patients who are underinsured. These individuals might be able to afford insurance, but their coverage is such that they’re going to struggle to pay for medications and start skipping doses or splitting pills. 

As the debate on universal healthcare continues, the future is uncertain for Americans who rely on good health insurance to navigate their day-to-day life.  Despite this uncertainty, Virginian residents can trust in organizations such as Rx Partnership and its clinics to act as a safety net for themselves and their families. 

Abigail Buchholz

Abigail Buchholz

Abigail Buchholz is a political science major at the University of Mary Washington. At school Abigail acts as News Editor for her school's newspaper. In her free time she enjoys traveling, the beach, and reading Stephen King.

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