Medicare Part D Continues to Make a Positive Impact

Cholestrol screening in one of many free health screenings offered at the Medicare Part D outreach events.

Feb 5, 2014
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"What plan should I join, a PDP or MA plan? What are the benefits entitled to me? What is this costing me?" These are just a few of the questions many American citizens ask their doctors, insurance companies, and even families. With all the legal and medical jargon, we sometimes don't understand our medical coverage and we end up overpaying for the prescription drugs we really need. Fortunately, Thomas J. Longs School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences hosts Medicare Part D outreach events in several cities like Stockton, Modesto, San Jose, Lodi, Sacramento and Berkeley in order to assist the under served, the uninsured, the disabled and the elderly. Trained student pharmacists work with patients, under the supervision of preceptors, to provide Medication Therapy Management (MTM). Patients can set appointments or walk in to the events to have their Medicare Part D plans evaluated for full efficacy, as well as receive vaccinations and get screened for blood pressure, diabetes, cholesterol, bone density, memory decline and more. It is important that Medicare patients evaluate their plans as they are changed every year. These events function primarily to identify the optimal plan for patients to save them money, to manage and counsel patients on drug intake and to identify medication-related issues.

One of the outreach events took place at First Congregational Church where patients were directed to teams of two student pharmacists who would provide MTM. Patients would bring their Medicare cards and their prescription and non-prescription medications to be evaluated by the team. Under the strict supervision of a preceptor, the team would first find the optimal plan for the patient in order to save them money on their prescriptions. The team would then counsel the patient on drug interactions, as well as safety and efficacy of the drugs. During MTM, students find ways to improve lives by counseling patients on when and how to take their medications, and can potentially find and solve issues regarding taking medication, as well the gaps of care within the fragmented healthcare system. After the counseling, patients can head to the other stations where different screenings were taking place. As a result of Pacific's Medicare Part D outreach events, over the past six years student pharmacists have been able to save patients a total of $1,579,429, or $557 per patient. They've also been able to identify severe medication related issues in over 200 people.

At the cholesterol screening station, teams of two student pharmacists screen patients for high cholesterol and glucose levels. In order to measure High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, or the good kind of cholesterol, as well as blood glucose, the students prick patients' fingers with lancets and use a capillary tube to place blood on test strips. Based on the reading of the test strip, the team of students can provide a mini consultation. Though they cannot diagnose patients, they can give patients tips on how to treat high levels of cholesterol.

The First Congregational Church is owned and managed by Mary Linquist, emeriti staff, who not only opened her doors to help the community, but also worked to raise awareness of the event. The outreach event was filled with people just like Linquist; Pacific pharmacy students, volunteers and mentors put in the time and effort to assist and encourage their ailing community. Not only did the event allow for students to participate in the betterment of the Stockton community, but it also prepared them for working in real clinics. Stephanie Zhao '15, said, "The event gives great exposure for Pacific, as well as a reputation for having a positive impact on the community. It's a good opportunity for students to become professionals. I hope to develop a greater passion for helping patients, and applying practical skills and knowledge while working at the event. The event also helps students explore different industries because they can talk to preceptors and other professionals." To add onto that, Craig Barker '14 said of the benefits, "The students learn about patient interaction, they get exposure to older patients, and since medication therapy management is a core, the students are getting really good practice."

Bobbie Sebastian, a senior information and assistance specialist who advocates for the elderly said, "The students are in a learning process; they learn about responsibility as well as contacting and socializing with professionals, patients and the community." Other benefits for students are the hands on detective skills used during medication therapy, which are difficult to learn in the classroom. Students also get exposure to Medicare and the health insurance system in the US."

Though the pharmacy students are gaining tremendous practical skills, we have to wonder; what do the patients gain? Patients are encouraged to take full advantage of all the services offered at the event. This means they can receive individualized assistance for their coverage, medication therapy and get screened for several illnesses all for free. This free service has generated many willing patients, and a good reputation for the School. "The patients get great benefits: they get necessary assistance from students who are great mentors, intelligent, social, and knowledgeable. Seniors come in to get information about their medications, they get shots, and the support they get from this group is amazing," said Sebastian.

Allen Shek, Professor and Vice Chair of Pharmacy Practice and Director of Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experience Program, said, "The event turnouts get better and better every year. People are more aware of our services and they tell their friends who tell their other friends. There is a large community demand at this point, so we've set up additional Medicare Outreach sites." Reggy Genasci, a patient who attended the event said, "I'm a first time patient and I've had my prescription analyzed and I found out I could save $30 on my medication if I switch to another plan. I would definitely come to the next event and even bring my friends. I'm very satisfied with the services and the students and professionals who helped me." The elderly patients get more than just vaccinations though. According to Linquist and her friend Judy Craig, both of whom volunteered at the event, the seniors enjoy the friendly interactions between themselves and students. Craig pointed out that she and Linquist had visited clubs and nursing homes which were not receptive to the event, however due to the attractive services offered many seniors had showed up anyway. "The event is a great free service; it saved my friend $200 on her medication. Not just that, but the patients seem to be happy speaking to young people!" Linquist replied laughingly.

For more information on how you can save money on your prescription medications, go to www.Rxassist.org or www.Goodrx.com to find out the many ways you can save.

By: Alin Kim '14, BUS