Ensuring Access to Life-Saving Drugs

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Vanessa Perkins knows the value of having an advocate. As a life-long New Yorker and activist, she speaks out for the causes close to her heart, such as children with special needs. With Vanessa, you know you’re in the presence of someone who gets things done.

But when Vanessa was facing her own challenges in accessing health care, she turned to CHA. “People think it’s degrading to ask for the help they’re entitled to, and that has to change. It’s empowering. CSS gave me the strength to tackle this situation.”

Like many hard-working New Yorkers, Vanessa doesn’t receive health insurance from her employer. Her salary makes it very hard to pay the $150 in monthly prescription costs it takes to treat the high blood pressure that led to her mild stroke four years ago. “It’s a heavy burden, worrying about your life-saving medication,” she says, “I can’t miss a day.”

Vanessa’s medications are covered by Medicaid, but she recently lost coverage following a move, when her re-enrollment packet got lost in the mail. Vanessa took action, contacting the State Department of Health to get her Medicaid application approved. But seven months later, she was still waiting to hear back from them.

Then she called CHA. When CHA’s Helpline staff found that Vanessa’s information was not in the Medicaid system, they took steps to locate proof that she had applied, followed up, and kept Vanessa constantly updated on the status of their efforts. Nine months after Vanessa’s initial application, her Medicaid benefits were reinstated retroactively, meaning her out-of-pocket prescription expenses would be reimbursed.

Of New York City’s 1.2 million uninsured residents under age 65, half are eligible for public health benefits, but don’t receive them. “Our goal is to get everyone who’s eligible for insurance enrolled,” says CHA Contract Manager Elizabeth Jean-Jacques, “and to make sure people like Vanessa don’t get lost in the system.”