New county programs to provide some residents with free insulin, EpiPens, inhalers

Santa Clara County is launching a pair of pilot programs on November 2, providing three medications to some residents free.

The subsidized medications are insulin, EpiPens, and asthma inhalers, all potentially life-saving medications.

Valley Medical Center will run the first program, running for six months, subsidizing the full medication cost for 300 residents. It applies to those who do not qualify for MediCal but are under-insured. Eligible patients must be enrolled in the County’s Healthcare Access Program.

The county’s Better Health Pharmacy will run the second pilot, providing insulin, free of cost, to 50 residents. It also runs six months.

“No one should have to break the bank in order to afford life-saving medication,” said Supervisor Joe Simitian.

Rising medication costs

Officials say the pilot programs aim to test how feasible it is to subsidize fully the medications for some patients.

Patients in the program will have access to a medication therapy management program to improve adherence and case management.

According to Simitian’s office, insulin costs have tripled since 2010, reaching $450 per month in 2016. EpiPens can cost more than $650 per two-pack, with generics costing more than $300.

The high cost can lead patients to forego doses to save money.

“We know that deferred preventative measures lead to costly emergency room and inpatient care,” said Luisa Buada, Chief Executive Officer at Ravenswood Family Health Center.

Community organization support

Several health groups praised the programs and the effort to support resident health.

“We are pleased to support this plan that provides access to this life-saving medication,” said Alan Kissick of the American Diabetes Association.

“We need to make necessary medications like Epipen and insulin more accessible,” said Milan Balinton of the African American Community Service Agency.