Reasons behind asthma care lacking for low-income patients run wide. However, cost seems to be the main issue.
In light of National Asthma Awareness Month this May, there are currently 19 million Americans, of the 25 million living with asthma, who live below 450% of the federal poverty limit.
CEO of Accessia Health, Gwen Cooper, expressed those living under the poverty limit present an economic challenge for access to asthma care.
Reasons behind asthma care lacking for low-income patients run wide, however, cost seems to be the main issue.
These individuals – and their families – could face medical bills up to $5,000 per year for treatments, with an annual U.S. economic cost of $82 billion, said Cooper. The potential $5,000 in out-of-pocket costs for treatment are only for those families who actually pursue medical care.
Quite often, the initial cost of screening and diagnosis — which can run from $150 - $400 — to determine the root cause of asthma and allergies is not always easily accessible for millions of families, Cooper said.
"Without treatment, people don’t have access to medications to control their asthma, often resulting in life-or-death emergency room visits," she added. "Ten people die each day from asthma, a statistic that is almost 100% preventable with the proper access to treatment. Having insurance is often the first step in participating in the healthcare system. But if the copays for doctor visits and medications are unaffordable, patients don’t seek care until an emergency."
Organizations that offer Nonprofit Patient Assistance Programs (PAP), like Accessia Health, serve to alleviate healthcare costs for patients who lack the financial resources to pay for the healthcare they need.
At Accessia, they rely 100% on donated funds to run their programs, and most donations are restricted only to the disease diagnosis. All nonprofit patient assistance programs operate pursuant to an Office of Inspector General (OIG) opinion allowing them actually pay for healthcare; these programs serve as the safety net for patients who are underinsured or have no insurance, Cooper said.
Providers and patient advocacy groups often serve as the referral source for patients to seek assistance from a program. Each nonprofit PAP offers a variety of ways to assist patients by providing education, case management and financial assistance to pay for medications, medical appointments and procedures, travel and other services related to a patient's diagnosis, Cooper said.
To shorten the gap of access in treatment deserts, Cooper suggests consumers get involved is by joining the conversation.
"The key to improved healthcare access is awareness and education. Start a fundraising initiative in your local community, educate yourself and others on the roadblocks some patients face in obtaining asthma treatments, and find worthy organizations to donate to," she said.
At Accessia, for example, folks can donate to their new One Breath National Asthma Raise campaign supported by MedicoCX, which will provide the funds necessary so those who can’t afford their treatments can get them regardless of zip code or diagnosis.
Opportunities like One Breath may be all it takes to save someone suffering from asthma and "we’re committed to eliminating asthma in allergy treatment deserts so people have access to the treatments that they desperately need," Cooper concluded.