Providence’s Medication Assistance Program Saves Patients $3.5 Million in 2021
Joe Burich recently celebrated his 85th birthday. The 45-year-old retired machinist has been married to his wife, Carol, for 64 years. They are self-proclaimed “doers”. In 1962, they built from scratch the house they still live in, in Aberdeen. They raised two daughters. They have four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
In 2012, Joe was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia – a rare, slow-growing and uncommon type of blood cell cancer that begins in the bone marrow.
“There are two types, the one with really bad news and the one that the pharmaceutical companies have found a drug that helps keep it dormant. The good news is that I got the second one.
The first shocking news was that the medication he had to take each month cost $8,000 a dose.
Joe was referred to the Providence Medication Assistance Program (MAP).
More than 1,000 Southwest Washington patients benefit from free and discounted medications
Two caregivers at the Providence Regional Cancer System don’t prescribe drugs, they don’t administer drugs, but for many patients they are as important a part of the care team as any doctor, nurse or pharmacist.
Jon Hylton and Rick Carns are the managers of the Providence Medication Assistance Program. They spend their days freeing patients — primarily those battling cancer who need incredibly expensive drugs and co-payments — from worrying about the high cost of prescription drugs.
“It really is one of the best jobs in the world,” said Hylton, who came to the job in 2009 from banking. “We are regularly treated like angels by the patients we work with. When we contact a patient and tell them they are approved for drug replacement cost or co-payment assistance, we often hear tears of joy.
“It’s a joy to tell patients that their job is to focus on their recovery, and our job is to figure out how to help them pay for that.”
In 2021 alone, the duo worked with over 1,000 patients, providing free medication and co-payment assistance totaling over $3.5 million.
“Without this program, I don’t know how our patients could get these drugs because the costs are enormous,” said Carns, who has been serving patients since 2010. “I feel really lucky to be part of this program. Not only I meet a lot of great people, but being able to relieve their stress and see the relief on their faces is just awesome.
10 years and nearly a million dollars later, the Aberdeen couple are living a half-full life
“I wouldn’t be here without this program,” admitted Joe. “Rick is a godsend for someone like me.”
Joe is quick to admit that he is not a “computer scientist”. Rick guided Joe through the initial application for the drug in 2012 and has assisted him with the grant application each year. Joe received the $8,000 a month life-saving drug every month for almost a decade.
“When you add that up, it’s a pretty staggering number,” Joe said. “I can’t say enough how much I appreciate Rick and this program. It kept me alive.
These days, Joe and Carol spend their days in their greenhouse – she’s a master gardener – or give advice to fellow car enthusiasts – Joe has built a 1955 Cadillac Coupe Deville from the ground up and his hotrod, a Ford convertible Deluxe from 1940.
“We just love being home and waking up every day with something to do,” Joe said. “It’s who we are. We have things to deal with, but we still feel blessed. With us, the glass is always half full.