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Thursday, July 14, 2011

Rensselaer Cares Prescription Assistance Program Demonstrates Improved Healthcare Access for People Who Are Poor and Vulnerable as Part of National Study

TROY, N.Y.A national health policy study has found that the experiences of the Rensselaer Cares Prescription Assistance Program provide valuable lessons to improve healthcare access, reduce the use of unnecessary emergency and inpatient care and improve health of low-income patients nation-wide.

The study, “Improving Health Care Access for Low-Income People: Lessons from Ascension Health’s Community Collaboratives,” can be accessed at and was published in the July 7 edition of Health Affairs. It examined seven communities, including Troy, that are working with Ascension Health’s five-step model to build collaborative safety nets. Troy and the other communities—(Austin, Texas; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Nashville, Tenn.; Pensacola, Fla.; Tawas City, Mich.; and Waco, Texas)—were selected to represent a range of population sizes, geographic locations and progress.

Rensselaer Cares is a prescription drug assistance program that helps patients obtain free or low-cost medication directly from pharmaceutical companies. In 2010, the program enrolled 976 new patients and helped them obtain 3,627 prescriptions with a retail value of over $1 million. The program began in January 2007 and since its inception, has helped nearly 3,500 uninsured and underinsured clients acquire 13,200 prescriptions with a retail value of almost $6.2 million. Partners in Rensselaer Cares include Seton Health/St. Mary’s Hospital; Medical Society of the County of Rensselaer, Inc; Northeast Health/Samaritan Hospital; and Whitney M. Young Jr. Health Center, Troy.

“We are proud of the work we have done together to improve care for the most vulnerable people in Rensselaer County. It is gratifying to know that our experiences may encourage other communities to form collaborative coalitions to expand access and coverage,” said Scott St. George, Interim President/CEO of Seton Health, which is part of the Rensselaer Cares program.

The study was authored by the Center for Studying Health System Change (HSC), a nonpartisan policy research organization committed to providing objective and timely research on the nation’s changing health system to help inform policy makers and contribute to better health care policy. “National health reform places considerable attention on community efforts to improve the integration and coordination of care for low-income people, and the study findings indicate that collaborative safety net approaches can help improve access and reduce unnecessary care,” said HSC President Paul B. Ginsburg, Ph.D. and coauthor of the study with Laurie E. Felland, M.A., HSC director of qualitative research and Gretchen M. Kishbauch, a former HSC research assistant.

Seton Health is part of Ascension Health, which provided leadership and resources in each community to initiate the work towards meeting the mutual goals of 100% access and 100% coverage.

To gather data for the study, researchers visited seven communities, including spending a two-day site visit in Troy to learn about safety net collaboration and strategies.

The five-step model encompasses the following aims:

  • Develop communitywide formal infrastructure of main safety net providers and other organizations.
  • Fill service gaps, including prescription drugs and dental and mental health services.
  • Create care models to improve health outcomes for low-income, uninsured people by helping them navigate and use the health system appropriately.
  • Recruit private physician volunteers, working through hospitals and local medical societies.
  • Secure sustainable funding through public and private sources

For more information on Rensselaer Cares, contact Melissa Zapotocki at (518) 268-6442.

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