Medication Assistance for the Uninsured

  • Nancy J. Johnson
  • Janet S. Smith


Case Study on Best Practices and Future Opportunities

St. Elizabeth’s Health Center, in Tucson, Arizona is the largest faith based community health center in Southern Arizona. For the past 47 years, St. Elizabeth’s has provided medical, dental, and health care exclusively for the uninsured, using a unique model of care partnering, a small paid staff with over 165 volunteer physicians, dentists, nurses, and other healthcare professionals. Prescription assistance is a daily challenge for the majority of the patients, ranging from children through the elderly, who make St. E’s their “medical home.” In addition, emergency room patients are referred regularly to St. Elizabeth’s for needed prescriptions. Various community collaborations and strategies keep the resources in place for the patients. Initially, St. Elizabeth’s has established two grants for medication assistance. One is with the City of Tucson for $50,000 annually, and one is with the County for $40,000 annually. Each of these grants has eligibility restrictions along with a capped amount per individual. In addition, the local electric company provides an unrestricted small grant for medications. The many volunteer physicians provide needed samples for patients as well. Over 40 physicians have their office staff “on call” when sample medication is needed, and is not in St. Elizabeth’s sample closet. Lastly, but most noteworthy to the community collaboration, is the service of a volunteer retired registered nurse, who spends 16–20 hours weekly, preparing and managing the Prescription Assistance Program. In 2007, her efforts provided over $1 million in prescriptions for St. Elizabeth’s uninsured patients. The continual assessment and gathering of resources, assures that uninsured patients will have access to needed medications. On the education side of the equation, the physician and nurse practitioner soon become proficient in knowing the medications that are less expensive, as well as which will be most likely adhered to and managed effectively by the patient population.


Medication Assistance Medicare Beneficiary Federal Poverty Level Drug Coverage Uninsured Patient 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.El Rio Community Health CenterTucsonUSA

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