Monday, March 5, 2012
Help Me Howard: Bingo Card
Some people have to take two or three, even more pills a day. Oftentimes they are elderly, some suffering from Alzheimer's. But one South Florida pharmacy has found a way to make it easy for them to make sure they don't make deadly mistakes, and now, insurance companies are saying, 'No, forget it.' Can an insurance company control how a person gets their prescriptions? It's why one one person called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- Some solutions make so much sense, it makes no sense that they aren't more common.
Yvette Romanach, South Miami Pharmacy: "This is a free service that we offer."
Yvette is with South Miami Pharmacy, a state-of-the-art facility where they are taking an extra step to care for their customers, in particular, older customers.
Yvette Romanach, South Miami Pharmacy: "This is a population that has a lot of medicines, and it gets confusing when you have a lot of bottles that look the same."
Their solution is what is called a "bingo card."
Yvette Romanach, South Miami Pharmacy: "Our patients will say make sure they are bingoed."
The pharmacy sorts a customer's pills into individual cards with slots numbered 1 through 31 for each day of the month, and a different-colored card for morning, noon and night.
Yvette Romanach, South Miami Pharmacy: "It's a great idea. I think it's a great idea to help anyone that has three meds or more to keep track of if they took it."
Kitty Thalheimer, Uses Bingo Cards: "I take one of each in the morning."
Kitty Thalheimer is a South Miami Pharmacy customer.
The bingo cards give her the chance to brag that she doesn't forget to take her medicine.
Kitty Thalheimer, Uses Bingo Cards: "I am pretty good. I am 93."
Lucy Robello's company checks daily on people like Kitty to make sure everything is going well.
Lucy Robello, Synergy HomeCare: "And when I started doing this, I realized that one of the main concerns that they had was if they were taking their medication right, so this system simplified their life completely."
Now it's getting complicated, because many insurance companies are forcing their customers to get their medicine through the mail, in bulk, to save the insurance companies money.
Lucy Robello, Synergy HomeCare: "And I have a lot of patients that are upset. It's an easy system for them to use, and now, they are upset that they have to go back to pill bottles."
And the danger that pills can create is stunning.
Each year, 125,000 people die from failing to take their medication properly. Fifty-eight percent of all seniors make some type of error when taking their medicine, adding $100 billion in hospitalization that could have possibly been prevented by something as simple as a bingo card.
Patrick Fraser: "It makes so much sense."
Yvette Romanach, South Miami Pharmacy: "We agree."
You could put pills in containers like this, but that requires the customer, some with Alzheimer's, to remember to sort their pills.
Better for Kitty is the ready-to-go bingo card. Lucy has seen it work for other people that Synergy HomeCare takes care of. Yvette says the bingo card has made life safer for so many of their customers.
Yvette Romanach, South Miami Pharmacy: "The problem is the elderly population. They do make a mistake. They take two of the medicines or three of the medicines, they forgot if they even took it. They end up in the hospital."
So legally Howard, do people have to accept their medicine in bulk through the mail or can they demand they get it on bingo cards like this, whether from a pharmacy or a bingo card through the mail?
Howard Finkelstein, 7 News Legal Expert: "Unfortunately, you cannot force your insurance company to allow you to use something like a bingo card. If they require you to get your medicine in bulk through the mail, you have to do that, or you can try to switch insurance companies."
I spoke to several agencies that help the elderly. Each one agreed that the bingo card is a great idea, but none had a solution for insurance companies forcing customers to get their medicine through the mail.
A spokesperson with the state agency that handles insurance told me customers should file a complaint with them, and they will do all they can to assist them.
Howard Finkelstein, 7 News Legal Expert: "Insurance companies do this to save money, but don't give up. File a complaint with the state, contact your local legislator. Tell them how important this is to you, your parents and your grandparents. The legislators can force the insurance companies to give people a choice."
Of course, if insurance companies started sending bingo cards through the mail, it would take business from South Miami. But Yvette says this isn't about the cash. It's about the safety of their customers.
Yvette Romanach, South Miami Pharmacy: "You are absolutely right. We won't benefit, but we will help the population that needs it most, and that's the elderly."
Patrick Fraser: "Now I am not an insurance whiz, but if it costs $100 billion a year to hospitalize people who make mistakes with their medication, think of how much it would save insurance companies if they required the bingo card for certain patients. Spend a few dollars, save a few million. But again, I am not an insurance whiz."
Need a prescription to cure your ills? Forget the pills. Just contact Help Me Howard, and bingo. We'll deliver some legal medicine you don't have to swallow. Just watch it on 7.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Consumer Services Division