Confronting the National Chronic Disease Crisis: A Conversation with Clorinda Walley

CWClorinda Walley is the Executive Director of Good Days, one of the nation’s largest providers of financial help to seriously ill Americans who cannot afford their medication.

Thanks very much for taking the time to participate in this interview. Could you tell us a little about Good Days?

Of course, thank you for the opportunity. Good Days is an independent non-profit helping underinsured patients with chronic disease obtain medications they need but cannot afford. We like to say that we do it simply, efficiently, and with compassion.

Tell us about the reasoning behind the focus on chronic disease?

Absolutely. In America, right now, we are facing a chronic illness crisis. Each day, seven out of 10 people in this country will die from chronic disease. It is a crisis that consumes 86 percent of our total healthcare costs. The most prevalent chronic diseases are also among the most preventable. So the crisis is twofold: first, as a nation we need to take better care of ourselves physically; and second, we need to make sure that individuals suffering from chronic disease who are in need of life-altering medication are able to access that medication.

You mention underinsured patients. How would you define that population?

It can include a wide-range of people of most any socioeconomic status, depending on their specific healthcare situation. Far too often, people throughout the country find that their health care coverage is inadequate when faced with an unexpected chronic illness. Good Days has helped more than half a million chronically ill patients that found themselves in that very situation.

At this moment, there are millions of Americans who are forced to go without medications that can significantly better their lives. Although most chronic disease patients have valid insurance, whether through a private plan or through government sponsorship programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, it’s estimated more than 30 percent still cannot afford their treatments.

How does an underinsured patient find out if they are eligible to receive assistance from Good Days?

Once a patient has already seen a doctor, been diagnosed, and has received a treatment plan requiring prescription medication, they will go to a pharmacy to fill the prescription and learn what their insurance co-pay will cost. If the pharmacy is in our Good Days Network, the pharmacist or patient may contact us directly for financial help. We work directly with pharmacies and doctors to pay for patients’ out-of-pocket expenses, so that patients receive their treatments quickly and easily.

If a patient has questions, they can always contact us directly. Good Days has a team of Patient Care Specialists that can determine if there is a fund for a specific disease and that can begin the process of qualifying a patient for financial support based on their medical needs and financial situation.

What solutions do you see on the horizon in terms of stemming the costs associated with chronic disease?

Even in our current political climate, legislation introduced in Congress aimed at creating workable solutions often has bipartisan support, and that is promising. For instance, just this year there was at least some acknowledgment of the issue with the proposed Better Care, Lower Cost Act and the Access to Better Care Act, two separate bills.

We are also beginning to see a greater awareness about the issue and that comes in part from advocacy and self-advocacy that gives a voice to the patients. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that chronic disease patients themselves, even children, are emerging as a new type of advocate. This hugely important because children and adults who feel confident handling a chronic illness on their own are often better able to manage their health. With this in mind, Good Days recently partnered with The Mighty, which is an online publishing platform dedicated to chronic disease sufferers. It is a place where individuals impacted by chronic disease can tell their story and be heard, and where they can also find resources for various types of emotional or financial assistance.

We need to recognize that this is an issue first and foremost, and these are signs that we are moving in the right direction.

Thanks again for sharing your insights with us.

My pleasure, thank you for the opportunity.

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