In 2012, Dr. Steven Cohen walked in the room to see an older patient who was about to cry. She was losing her house to foreclosure because she had to choose between paying for her medicines and her mortgage. Dr. Cohen knew that the Medicare Plan Finder on Medicare.Gov could help people in her situation find Medicare insurance plans, which would cover their medicines at a lower price. After seeing that few people, including nurses and doctors, knew about this, he started the nonprofit MedicareDrugSavings.org.
How much could this help? Studies have shown that the average person on a Medicare D plan could save $368/year. This translates to over $20 billion/year for the 55 million people on Medicare. The millions of veterans and their spouses on Medicare who are not covered by VA health care might save over $2 billion/year. People with Medicare who have chronic problems such as HIV, breast cancer (97,000 new cases in 2015 in women over 65), COPD, and kidney and heart disease could be expected to save significant amounts.
In 2009, Dr. Cohen’s mother developed lung cancer. Her Medicare plan did not pay for an expensive medicine prescribed to treat the cancer. Several years after his mother’s passing, Dr. Cohen had a conversation with an oncologist, who had said that no plans in Atlanta covered this medicine and that the oncologist’s patients with lung cancer could only get it if they could obtain donations of it from the drug companies. In two minutes, Dr. Cohen used the Medicare Plan Finder to show the oncologist that some insurance plans did pay for this medicine, lowering the out of pocket cost in 2013 from $79,000 to $6,000/year – a savings of more than 94 percent.
Dr. Steven Cohen is a native of Atlanta. After graduating from the University of Michigan and Emory University School of Medicine, he specialized in internal medicine. He then worked in a refugee camp in Thailand with people who fled the Khmer Rouge killing fields of Cambodia before returning to the Atlanta area to practice general internal medicine.
Chris Schroder is the president and founder of SPR Atlanta, an award-winning Atlanta public relations firm, and The Atlanta 100, a website and weekly eNewsletter featuring 100-word articles and 100-second videos on topics of intrigue about Atlanta. Prior to entering the PR world, Chris was the publisher of three neighborhood newspapers and an ad director, a creative director, a promotions manager, a promotions director and a reporter for a variety of newspapers around the Southeast including The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and The Charlotte Observer.
Dr. Thomas McNamara was previously the Vice President for Medical Affairs at WellStar Cobb and Windy Hill Hospitals at WellStar Health System. Prior to joining WellStar, Dr. McNamara worked for the Carilion Clinic based in Roanoke, VA for 15 years where he maintained a full-time practice while also engaged in medical management and administrative duties. He was also the president & CEO of Carilion Stonewall Jackson Hospital. Dr. McNamara has over 25 years of experience as a practicing family physician, which has included assisting with the establishment and staffing free clinics in the communities where he has practiced.