MCAC needs community’s help to continue helping those in need

I am writing as the chairwoman of the Board of Directors of the Medical Care Access Coalition, or MCAC. The MCAC was started in 2004, funded by a grant to help the uninsured and under-insured to receive the medical treatments and testing through services donated by local physicians and therapists, as well as local hospitals and clinics. This program provided residents of Dickinson and Iron counties with more than a million dollars of lifesaving medical services each year.

In 2014, the donated services were discontinued, as each American would be required to have health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. At that time, MCAC decided to expand its scope of service to help with a need that was not being addressed in the community. The staff went through hours of state and federal training to become free, certified Medicare and Medicaid counselors, as well as certified application counselors for the Health Insurance Marketplace, and certified partners with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to provide no-cost service to low-income and disabled individuals. Our services are free, and we are not paid by any insurance company.

In addition to these services, we’ve helped clients to receive free hearing aids, food stamps and enroll in charity care programs through Dickinson County Healthcare System, Bellin Health and OSF hospitals; and vouchered thousands of dollars’ worth of lifesaving medications. Currently, no one else in the community screens for low-income subsidies.

In 2017, we expanded again to assume the Prescription Assistance program, formerly administered by DCHS. In 2017 and 2018, we saved our clients a staggering $2,297,892.02. Because of our work, 2,618 individuals were able to obtain their lifesaving meds, and continue to eat and pay their other bills. This year already, we have saved almost $900,000 for your friends and neighbors.

With a staff consisting of one full-time and one part-time person, plus a few dedicated volunteers, we’ve been able to accomplish so much and been blessed to touch so many lives.

Over the years, sources of funding have quietly dried up as federal and state programs shrink, and private organizations feel the pinch. We are currently operating on reserve funds, which, unfortunately, are running out. Without an operating budget, we will be forced to close our doors for good. The majority of work we do is not offered anywhere else, and all of our clients will be turned away to navigate the system alone. We continue to seek funding for this important work.

I know this letter is long, but it merits the time to read a few lines from some folks who have received our services.

“Through no fault of my own, I’ve been a type I diabetic for over 40 years, and a part of the ‘working poor.’ Without the assistance of MCAC, I do not know what would have happened to me — no one should be in fear of dying simply because the medication needed is too expensive.”

“Without this program, my parents would be unable to pay for their prescriptions. They would DIE.”

“With my breathing problems, I need many expensive meds. Some are $300/month. I’ve never smoked, yet need meds for COPD and asthma, as well as a CPAP. Along with my prescriptions, I was able to get a subsidy to buy health insurance. I hope and pray that the MCAC will always be available to me and others who need this valuable service. It has been lifegiving and lifesaving in my golden years.”

“MCAC has been critical to me in getting the meds I need to manage my MS. They were able to get the meds I needed for free from the company. I would not have been able to afford it on my income (which I never thought was low until I tried to afford medications and food both). After two years when the free meds ended, my condition worsened. MCAC helped me obtain a foundation grant to help me afford my medication.”

“My application, for various reasons, was extremely complex, and I would not have been able to do this on my own.”

From a local insurance agent: “I call MCAC almost weekly about clients who need help applying for Medicare assistance programs and prescription assistance.”

From a family nurse practitioner: “I have sent numerous patients to MCAC. It has helped many control their illness with appropriate and otherwise unaffordable medications. This program is a necessity for our community.”

Fifteen years ago, I said I looked forward to the day our services were no longer needed. That day has not arrived, but we may be forced to close anyway for lack of funding. We welcome any ideas or input.