Accessing Treatments & Drugs with Limited or No Health Insurance

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Emergency rooms are expensive places to get non-emergency treatment. There are affordable ways to get good medical care, even if your uninsured and/or unemployed. We’ll discuss several options later in this article. If you do find yourself in a hospital emergency room go to the hospital’s billing office a soon as your released and discuss your situation with a service representative. Many hospitals give charitable care to patients who truly can not afford to pay.

Free Help

The Patient Advocate Foundation helps patients with chronic, life threatening, and debilitating diseases access care and treatment. Case managers and their Financial Aid Fund staff are available to talk to you from 8:30 am to 4:00 pm on weekdays. They are closed on weekends and most holidays. The phone number is (800) 532-5274. They help over 100,000 patients every year. There is also a long list of patient helplines available at aPatientsPlace.com. The helplines are organized by category, most popular, and disease.

Find a Free Clinic

If you’re not having an emergency, consider finding a free clinic. You can get both primary and specialty care at most clinics. There are over 1,400 clinics across the U.S. that provide free health care in their community. Here’s the link to find a free clinic.

Low Cost Medication

NeedyMeds.org is a non-profit organization that will help you find programs to pay for your medication. An alphabetical list and phone numbers for more than 100 organizations that provide financial help is available at aPatientsPlace.com.

Clinical Trials

Patients do not pay to participate in studies that test new treatments in development. You can search for clinical trials related to your disease at Clinicaltrials.gov. There are more than 290,000 public and private research studies in the U.S. and around the world currently listed as of Dec. 2018.

Insurance

Medicaid is a federal and state health insurance program for people with limited income.

Eligibility is determined by each state. Go to https://benefits.gov and click on “Healthcare and Medical Assistance.” Choose your state and category “Medicare and Medicaid” to learn about eligibility and how to apply.

Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) provides health coverage for children in families with incomes too high to qualify for Medicaid, but who can’t afford private insurance. Call 877-543-7669 to find out if you qualify and to apply.

Money Saving Benefit Programs

There are thousands of programs that can help patients with medications, care, finances, food, housing, and more. You can easily find your benefits at BenefitsCheckup.org.

If you haven’t found the help you need, fill out the “Ask an Expert” box near the bottom of the home page of aPatientsPlace.com.

Guidelines for Diabetes Self-Management

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According to the Cleveland Clinic and a large body of research, lifestyle is the key to diabetes self-management. I see many posts on social media and in patient groups that mention diet or exercise as a solution to reverse diabetes. While both diet and exercise are important parts to the solution, it’s important to understand that scientific research confirms that while you can manage diabetes, it can not be reversed.

To successfully manage your diabetes you’ll need to develop, execute, track, and refine a diabetes management plan (DMP). This should be done with leadership and partnership from your primary care physician (PCP), and coordinated with any specialists and clinicians that you are working with; such as an endocrinologist.

Your plan should include nutrition, physical activity, stress, and medication management. The nutrition part of your plan should be developed and managed with input from a dietitian.

In order to be successful your DMP must be realistic. It must fit with your current lifestyle and your circumstances. Your DMP should also be documented in your medical record so you can stay on plan even if you change physicians, relocate, or find yourself with out insurance.

There are 8 behaviors that you should include in your DMP. They are;

  1. Physician Guidance
  2. Healthy Nutrition
  3. Physical Activity
  4. Blood Sugar Monitoring
  5. Medication Management
  6. Problem-Solving
  7. Coping Skills
  8. Risk Reduction

Physician Guidance

You physician and his/her staff should be experienced and comfortable helping you develop a diabetes management plan (DMP) and discussing it with you during and in-between appointments. Follow up with your PCP and/or the practice staff should be frequent and agreed to by you and your physician. If you are at a high risk for non-compliance your physician’s staff should help by directing you to local support services.

Tip: Medicare pays for 10 hours of diabetes education. An additional 3 hours of medical nutrition therapy is also available to patients. After the first year, 2 hours of additional training are available each year.

Healthy Nutrition

Start by working with your PCP and a registered dietitian to create a weekly meal plan. This should include eating a balanced diet with a variety of foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grain foods, low-fat dairy products, and lean meat, poultry, fish, or meat alternatives.

Your meal plan should include a focus on the right amount of carbohydrates to control your blood sugar. This should be done in collaboration with a dietitian. Your meal plan should offer lower fat options and limit saturated fats, and it should emphasize using sugar in moderation. Other inclusions in your meal plan are 20-35 grams of fiber per day. Vegetables, beans, and whole grain foods are good sources. Drinking water throughout each day, avoiding high fat foods, and using less salt are also part of a good meal plan.

If you have type 1 diabetes your insulin dose can be adjusted based on level of carbohydrates in your meal.

Physical Activity

You can help control your blood sugar, slow the progression of your diabetes, improve your overall health, manage your weight, boost your brain activity, and help manage stress through physical activity. The type of physical activity that’s right for you should be discussed with your PCP, added to your DMP, and tracked for your use.

Tip: Life will get in the way on some days. It’s OK to miss a planned exercise or skip a day or two when you’re not feeling up to it. The keys to success are to;

  1. Get back on your physical activity plan when you do fall off.
  2. Track your activity every day no matter what.
  3. Discuss your plan regularly with your physician.
  4. Change your plan as needed to fit your life and health.

Blood Sugar Monitoring

How often you should test your blood sugar level depends on the type of diabetes you have and your diabetes management plan (DMP). According to the Mayo Clinic If you have type 1 diabetes it’s common to test before snacks, meals, and bet time, before and after exercise, and sometimes during the night.[i]   Some people treated with insulin may use a continuous glucose monitor (CGM). CGMs rely on a sensor placed under your skin to read your blood sugar levels. Some work automatically, and others require you to run a receiver over the sensor.

If you have type 2 diabetes, you will likely be testing less. The actual amount will depend on if you are taking insulin, and the type and amount of insulin you’re taking. If you’re taking multiple injections each day, testing is often recommended before meals and at bedtime. If you’re using a long-lasting insulin you may only test a few times daily before meals. If you are managing your diabetes without any insulin, you may not need to test your blood sugar every day.

In all cases, you should work with your doctor to identify what’s best for you, and set targets based on your personal circumstances. The factors your doctor use will usually include;

  1. The type of diabetes you have.
  2. Your age and life expectancy.
  3. How long you’ve had diabetes.
  4. Any diabetes complications.
  5. Your overall health, and other conditions.
  6. If you are pregnant.
  7. Personal considerations.

Tip: Medicare pays for monitors, test strips, lancets, testing supplies, and glucose control solution. Consult with your physician for limitations.

Taking Medication

If you have type 1 diabetes you are likely to take medication for the rest of your life. Yet, it is estimated that 20% to 30% of patients do not take their medications as advised by their doctors. If you experience negative side effects from your medication tell you doctor. In most cases there are other options.

Problem-Solving

Diabetes is both chronic and progressive. Since managing diabetes requires daily attention, you are solving problems related to your activity, diet, and stress. Learning how to respond to changes in your blood sugar and different situations requires you to find solutions that work for you. It’s important to note that over time this can also take a mental and emotional toll on you.

Coping Skills

Having skills to maneuver difficult or potentially embarrassing situations will help you to stay positive and engaged with your DBM. If you feel like you are failing, you are much more likely to let your disease dictate your life.

Risk Reduction

You can take preventive actions to minimize your risk of letting your disease make you feel lousy or incapacitate you. Following your DMP, having regular exams with you doctor(s), checking your blood pressure, and checking things like your feet, eyes, teeth, cholesterol, and other lab tests are all parts of your DMP that should be discussed with your doctors.

Barriers to Success

Many patients are not comfortable making decision about their care because they have relied on their clinicians to tell them what to do. The problem with that strategy if you are trying to manage your diabetes is that your daily decisions often have even a bigger impact on your success managing your disease than anything that happens in your doctor’s office. If you do not have affordable access to drugs, you are not satisfied with your clinicians, or you are unsure about any aspect of your care you should seek help from your doctors, insurers, community services, local area providers, and online support groups. Connections to resources and help with every aspect of your diabetes management plan can be found at https://aPatientsPlace.com.

[i] Mayo Clinic. Blood sugar testing: Why, when and how. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diabetes/in-depth/blood-sugar/art-20046628

 

100% Discount for CA Patients Earning Up to 250% of the Federal Poverty Level

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Provisions in the California Department of Justice conditional approval of the proposed merger between Dignity Health and Catholic Health Initiatives, require the California hospitals of the new system, CommonSpirit, to offer 100% discount through their financial assistance policies to patients earning up to 250% of the federal poverty level, begining in 2019.

 

Pay attention to new, 2019 Medicare Advantage (MA) plan benefits?

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Consumers should pay close attention to new benefits in Medicare Advantage (MA) plans in 2019. New benefits may include transportation, and home health visits.

At the same time, CMS is beginning to consider Medicaid demonstration waivers covering short-term stays for acute care provided in psychiatric hospitals or residential treatment centers in exchange for expanding access to community-based mental health services.

HIV Patients Paid $500 to Lower Drug Costs

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Eligible United Healthcare members participate by;

1. Asking your doctor about lower cost prescription drug alternatives.
2. Filling an eligible prescription.
3. Activating your My ScriptRewards.
4. Continuing your medication for 6 months.

You should receive a $250 gift card in the mail, and another $250 gift card when you complete 6 months of your prescription. Self-insured customers should be added to the the list of participants in Nov. Stay tuned to see if this program is expanded to other high cost specialty medications in 2019.

 

New, Medicare Advantage (MA) Plan Benefits in 2019

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2019 Medicare Advantage plan purchasers should be looking carefully for new benefits that help diagnose and manage health conditions. Important benefits included are; transportation to physicians, over-the-counter drugs, adult day care, in-home support and home modifications, support lines and wellness programs.  The Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) estimates almost 1/3 of Medicare Advantage plans will have some additional benefits for their members.

State Resources for Patient Self-Management of Chronic Illnesses

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Your doctors and health providers can not manage your chronic illness for you. Patients who self-manage their chronic illnesses spend less time in hospitals and emergency rooms, have fewer doctor appointments, and lower their health care costs. For more information on how to manage your chronic disease use this resource from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), or go to the Healthcare Help index at aPatientPlace.com.

Cancer Treatment with Medical Marijuana by The National Cancer Institute (NCI)

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Much is being said about treating cancer with marijuana. Facts are easily confused with opinions, advertising, and compelling personal stories. Click here to get the facts according to the National Cancer Institute’s “Overview” on Marijuana research.  You also have free access some of the very best sources for medical research and information at aPatientsPlace.com.