AmeriCorps members help Philly patients master paperwork to get drugs they can’t afford

    Many of the large pharmaceutical companies help uninsured and low-income people by providing free prescription drugs. Those programs can get critical medicine to needy people, but often require lots of paperwork.

    AmeriCorps member and recent Syracuse University graduate Zachary Coppola helps Philadelphia health clinic patients navigate the maze of forms and requirements.

    “We get all the applications signed by the doctors, and we also talk to the drug companies if anything goes wrong, figure out how to fix it,” Coppola said.

    Patients typically re-apply every year, need refills every three months, and fill out a separate application for each medication.

    Kathleen Golden, a resident of the Tacony section of Philadelphia, takes four different drugs to manage her asthma and the lung disease COPD.

    City health centers pay for some prescription drugs but not the brand name medicine, Spiriva, that Golden’s doctor said she needed.

    “It’s an amazing drug, you only use it once a day, but it helps my life a lot. I was not — at one time — able to walk up a flight of steps without being out of breath,” Golden said. “With this medication I feel wonderful.”

    The 63-year-old is too young for Medicare and says she earns a little too much to qualify for Medicaid.

    Golden gets her care at Health Center 10 in Northeast Philadelphia but there are AmeriCorps members stationed at all the city clinics.

    Coppola, 23, is heading to medical school next year and says his time in Philadelphia gave him an up-close look at the health system and some of the frustrations that patients face.

    Administrators say the HealthCorps program saves Philadelphia clinics more than $1 million each year.

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