George Vereen, like many South Carolinians, was in a tough spot a few months back.
“I was having high blood pressure and heart trouble,” recalls the 53-year-old Horry County resident, who had also recently lost his disability status and was struggling to pay for his medicines.
Scraping together the money to pay for his prescriptions had long been a struggle for Vereen. He suffers from bee and ant allergies that, along with his health troubles, make doing any outdoor work a dangerous gambit.
In many ways George’s quandary is the same as millions of other uninsured Americans, for whom getting proper and sustained medical care is extraordinarily difficult. These folks are often confronted with a bewildering array of makeshift services designed to plug the “uninsured gap” in our system. That’s why in South Carolina we have begun to develop regional networks through AccessHealth SC to more proactively address this problem. Funded by The Duke Endowment along with many others and working with a broad array of stakeholders, the program facilitates regional networks that gather a full range of providers and other health-and social-related resources together to work collaboratively. By aligning services and providing a guide for patients to navigate how, what, and when to access various providers, networks help patients overcome preventive, chronic, and acute healthcare needs to improve their health quality of life in ways that would have been difficult, if not impossible, for them to do so on their own.
One of these networks is AccessHealth Horry, which works county-wide to find patients reduced-fee medical care, social services and prescription drug assistance. George saw a flyer for the network when he was getting treatment at Little River Medical Center one day and realized it was exactly what he needed. He called the network the next day, and got assistance through one of the staffers, Heather Rubino, who he refers to as “Ms. Heather.”
“They really helped me out by getting me some free medicine. I wasn't able to afford my medicine [before],” he says. “They also helped me get glasses. They were just general, all-around nice people. They helped me when I needed help the most.”
Ms. Heather was able to get George enrolled in Welvista, a nonprofit pharmacy which works to provide heavily subsidized prescription medications to uninsured South Carolinians with chronic illnesses.
“Welvista has helped me out a whole bunch,” he says gratefully. “They got me an epi pen, which would have run me $600, one by itself. They got me two of them for free.”
Thanks to AccessHealth Horry, George has found a new lease on life.
“I can do a little bit more stuff now than before. My bones wouldn't let me move around much before,” he concludes. “Getting my medicine, I can move. I can almost get out there and cut the yard in one day, instead of three or four days. I'm 53 years old, and I feel better now than when I was 45. I was working [then], but I still couldn't afford all my medicine.”
George’s story points to the larger success of taking an organized approach to lowering barriers to access, something which AccessHealth networks across South Carolina are doing every day. For more information and resources about these networks, go to the AccessHealth SC landing page here.