When her husband retired seven years ago, Pat mistakenly thought the couple – high school sweethearts from Fort Loramie, Ohio – could continue on his health insurance plan. They quickly learned they had to buy into the plan to extend it at a hefty price they could not afford.
“We just thought something like this would never ever happen to us, because you know, you work your whole life, you think things are going to be OK,” she said.
For five months they scrimped to come up with the $1,400 they needed every month to continue the coverage. But with no affordable option in sight, they became uninsured for the first time. Pat became consumed with worry.
“I cried a lot. I was just a nervous wreck,” she remembers. “I felt like I was having a heart attack, a nervous breakdown, a stroke. I just felt like something was happening to me on the inside even though it wasn’t.”
Pat was relieved when she found Compassionate Care, a free clinic in nearby Sidney supported by AmeriCares. In addition to delivering free medicines and medical supplies, AmeriCares provided the clinic with software to help patients enroll in patient assistance programs that provide free medications from pharmaceutical companies. Supported by the GE Foundation , AmeriCares U.S. Medical Assistance Program is now the nation’s largest provider of donated medical aid to the U.S. health care safety net, last year delivering $70 million in prescription and over-the-counter medicines and medical supplies for patients in need.
Pat, who has diabetes and high blood pressure, takes a half-dozen medicines. Her husband has also suffered health problems in recent years. The clinic, Pat said, is their lifeline and their only chance to stay healthy.
“We couldn’t live without it. There is no way we could pay for all those prescriptions,” she said.
During the time her diabetes went untreated, she was so lethargic that she couldn’t work or enjoy normal, everyday activities. One day while driving to pick up her youngest daughter from college, she dozed off at a stoplight and got into an accident.
“I was stopped and fell asleep at the wheel and ran into the back of a car,” Pat recalls. “That’s how tired I was. I don’t have any more of that, thank the Lord, because they have it under control for me.”
Today the 60-year-old is healthy enough to babysit regularly for one of her 10 grandchildren. Being a grandmother is her greatest joy, and with her diabetes under control she said, “I can enjoy things I never enjoyed with my own kids.”