NEW PATIENT ASSISTANCE PROGRAM TO PROVIDE INDIVIDUALS IN TREATMENT WITH FINANCIAL SUPPORT FOR LIFE NECESSITIES.
COVID-19 pandemic makes new funding initiative more critical than ever—aiming to improve breast cancer outcomes in the local community by helping women and men in treatment better focus on the path to recovery without the stress of paying for utilities, groceries and other needs for themselves and their families.
In spring 2020, Susan G. Komen® Philadelphia—the region’s leader in saving lives and working toward an end to breast cancer by attacking the disease on all fronts—activated its new Patient Assistance Program to provide additional support to women and men in treatment by helping them pay for certain life needs. With more than 185,000 mammograms funded and approximately $63 million in local grants distributed at the start of 2020, Komen Philadelphia’s Community Grants Program has been funding free mammograms, clinical exams, diagnostic services, treatment, navigation and other services related to the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer for nearly three decades. However, the new Patient Assistance Program represents a second, critical dimension of support driven by the understanding that relieving the stress of certain financial challenges plays an important role in patients’ treatment and, ultimately, improving outcomes. Under the program, Komen Philadelphia will provide a breast cancer patient up to $500 in assistance annually for paying utility bills, buying groceries and covering essential transportation services.
The program’s rollout—which started in March, 2020—couldn’t have been timelier, nor more critical, given the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has greatly expanded the need for the assistance Komen Philadelphia will provide.
“Every day, we hear from breast cancer patients who call us directly—or we meet through our grantees—who are desperate to make ends meet because co-pays, deductibles or unexpected non-covered services suddenly have them in a financial nightmare,” said Elaine I. Grobman, Chief Executive Officer, Komen Philadelphia. “The calls we’ve received grew exponentially when COVID-19 hit, and they continue to grow as people feel the financial impact of being out of work, losing their jobs and being part of business that have had to close their doors.”
“The patients we will support through our Patient Assistance Program are faced with the horrible choice of either paying for treatment or being able to feed their families or heat their homes,” Grobman continued. “No woman should have to face that choice—especially at a time when she needs to be fully focused on surviving a deadly disease like breast cancer. That is what the program is all about—it’s a program for patients, for their families… for peace of mind and, ultimately, a better quality of life during and after treatment.”
Under the current program structure, men and women currently in treatment for breast cancer, under the care of a Komen Philadelphia community grantee and considered a low-income individual living at or below the 250% federal poverty are eligible to seek support from the Patient Assistance Program. A patient can receive up to $500 per year from Komen Philadelphia to help pay for one or a combination of the following:
- Utilities: paid by Komen Philadelphia directly to the utility via the Gift of Energy program
- Groceries: paid in the form of cards to stores most appropriate/convenient for the patient
- Transportation: paid via Uber Health, Lyft Health, gas gift cards and public transit vouchers
Grantees in Komen Philadelphia’s 15-county service area will play a key role in distribution of funds and are required to vet patients to assess their needs and ensure requirements are met. Under the original scope of the Patient Assistance Program, grantees would refer vetted, eligible patients to Komen Philadelphia for further needs assessment and distribution of support—in the form of payments to utilities/gift cards to eligible service providers and/or the patient. However, recognizing the increased urgency for support precipitated by the financial impact of COVID-19 on patients in need and their families, Komen Philadelphia revised the process. Instead, this June Komen Philadelphia distributed funds to grantees earmarked for them to use for the Patient Assistance Program.
“It was immediately clear that in these times we needed to streamline the route from patient request to her or him receiving financial assistance—such as supermarket gift cards or a check written to a utility company or landlord,” said Grobman. “So, in essence, we eliminated Komen Philadelphia as a ‘middle man’ and distributed the money we had in the Patient Assistance Fund to date to our grantees. They will continue to review applications and vet patients but now, instead of coming to us for the financial support, they will get it directly from their treating physician.”
After a patient receives support, Komen Philadelphia and their grantees will work together to conduct a short follow-up assessment to ensure the program is running successfully for patients as well as grantees. Because they are assisting patients under a physician’s care, Komen Philadelphia and grantees will go to great length to protect patient privacy and confidentiality. For example, patient health information will be stored in paper form and kept in a safe as opposed to being filed digitally.
“We are very proud to be a pioneer in this type of program,” said Grobman. “It required a great deal of legal considerations, deep dives into patient privacy laws, assessment of needs in our service area… dotting the I’s and crossing all the T’s to ensure 100% that our intent to support patients and families does, indeed, help them without a single additional worry. Moreover, we took care not to launch our Patient Assistance Program until we were able to build up enough funds to make sure we could meet every need that comes our way in the upcoming year, and meet it quickly—we can’t have a patient waiting for weeks to get support. We are so very grateful to the generous donors who were early adopters and those who will help us establish an ongoing stream of funding so we can keep this program going successfully far, far into the future.”
Komen Philadelphia’s new Patient Assistance Program is being enthusiastically applauded by the organization’s community grantees. These grantees frequently experience the reality of a patient’s struggle because the financial impact of her diagnosis and treatment requirements put certain living necessities at risk for her and her family. Now, these grantees no longer just have to listen with a compassionate ear in these situations but instead can offer a viable, life changing solution from Komen Philadelphia.
“Komen Philadelphia’s Patient Assistance Program means we can now better serve women in need who come under our care by helping them achieve a greater level of financial and emotional support along with physical treatment for breast cancer,” said Nora Katurakes, Manager of Community Health Outreach and Education, Christiana Care Health System, a Komen Philadelphia community grantee. “These three things—emotional wellbeing, physical healing and ease of financial burden—all come into play in surviving disease and helping a patient get back to the life she envisions for herself and her family. Thanks to Komen Philadelphia’s 360-degree approach to ending breast cancer, we aren’t only saving more lives every day but also elevating the quality of those lives.”
Anyone wishing to donate to help ensure adequate funds in Komen Philadelphia’s Patient Assistance Program can do so at KomenPhiladelphia.org/donate. A percentage of funds raised for the 2020 Komen Philadelphia Virtual MORE THAN PINK Walk® will also be used to support the new program.