Pharmacies Play a Key Role in One Business’ Mission to Help the Uninsured

December 19, 2016

What began as a social mission to help one small community has transformed over the last 11 years into a successful nationwide program that remains committed to its original mission: helping the uninsured get more affordable prescription drugs.

Joe SanginitiIn just over ten years, Bethlehem, PA-based FamilyWize estimates that it has helped 10 million people save a total of $1 billion in prescription drug costs. However, Joe Sanginiti, President and Chief Executive Officer of FamilyWize, says the company’s success wouldn’t have been possible on its own.

“Our model is about partnerships. We partner with United Way, the American Heart Association, the National Council on Aging, mental health institutions and most importantly, our pharmacies, the large retailers to the small retailers to independents across the country,” he says.

Partnerships with community and government organizations, such as United Way, allow FamilyWize to pool together large numbers of patients who are either uninsured, or as Sanginiti describes it, underinsured due to high medication costs or high deductibles.

FamilyWize then works with more than 60,000 pharmacies across the nation to negotiate discounts on prescription drugs in a process similar to how pharmacies work with employers or insurance companies.

Unlike manufacturer coupons or rebate programs, customers who use the free FamilyWize prescription card are able to save instantly at the pharmacy counter.

While the discount can range anywhere from 20% to 80%, Sanginiti says the average is about 43%. The discount is passed directly on to the consumer.

 

“We get our discounts straight from the pharmacies,” he says. “They are negotiated contracted discounts that we get from the Walgreens and CVS and even the independents they work through our PBM, which is Envision, to negotiate a contract with them.”

The company has also developed an app that allows customers to search area drug prices to find the pharmacy offering the lowest price in their area.

Sanginiti says FamilyWize strives to be a pharmacy-friendly company that works closely with pharmacies to try to get patients in need the best price possible, whether that’s the pharmacy’s own prescription drug card or the FamilyWize card.

“Sometimes their programs are better than ours, their pricing is better than ours, so we always encourage the pharmacist to do what is best for  the patient,” he says.

In addition to the prescription card, Walgreens has also worked with FamilyWize to distribute thousands of vouchers for flu shots at no cost for those who can’t afford the vaccine at community events.

“Since 2014, we have distributed more than 8,500 flu vouchers at more than 165 FamilyWize events,” said Tracy Vilvens, a Strategic Account Manager at Walgreens, in a statement to Drug Topics.

 Vilvens says they’ve partnered with the organization because they wanted to reach a greater number of patients and have even made it easier for members to refill their prescriptions by allowing members to refill or transfer prescriptions through the FamilyWize app.

 

“Committed to education and health care, Walgreens has formed a collaboration with FamilyWize to reach those patients who need it most, the underserved and uninsured,” she says.  

Pharmacists can help by making sure customers are aware of the free prescription drug card, as well as by working with the FamilyWize’s PBM to negotiate a contract with the company to ensure patients have access to that affordable medications. Sanginiti says the company works closely with pharmacists to help educate them about how to use the prescription drug card and how to compare the card’s pricing to other options. Pharmacists can then, in turn, use this knowledge to educate and assist consumers.

FamilyWize also just recently announced a new product - emRxcel, that will add another level of collaboration with healthcare providers. emRxcel is an automated prescription savings program that is incorporated into a health system’s EMR to give patients the FamilyWize discount. This new product, is already being piloted at Trinity Health in Livonia, Michigan, has delivered some powerful results. Within four months, emRxcel has helped more than 4,865 patients save almost $200,000 on their prescription drugs.

FamilyWize, explains Sanginiti, began as a social mission eleven years ago by the company’s founder’s Dan and Susan Barnes. At the time, Susan Barnes was working as a nurse in Pennsylvania and began noticing that she kept seeing the same patients return to the hospital week after week.

Patients would come receive a prescription when they were discharged, but those prescriptions weren’t getting filled and the patient would soon return again.

After sharing her frustrations with her husband, Dan Barnes decided to use his business connections and relationship with an area United Way organization to develop a free prescription card to help the uninsured gain more affordable access to medications in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley.

The program was such a success that other local United Way organizations were interested in participating as well and the company’s reach continued to grow.

Sanginiti says FamilyWize is now part of the health initiative in 90% of the local United Way chapters across the country, and the company has a contract with United Way Worldwide that extends through 2050.

 

The prescription card is open to anyone. There are no eligibility guidelines; however, Sanginiti says the company has focused its efforts primarily in areas of the country with the greatest need.

He also credits the organization’s success, in part, to its partnerships with pharmacies across the country.

“Your local pharmacists, your community pharmacists, are so full of knowledge,” he says. “They are keys to the health of people. I can’t express that more.”