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A Pharmacy student from University of the Pacific helps a Medicare recipient with his medications. Photo: courtesy of University of the Pacific

Mobile Medicare Clinic to hold health fair at Allen Temple Baptist Church

on November 19, 2015

East Oakland seniors can get help making sense of their medications at the Allen Temple Baptist Church health fair this Saturday when the University of the Pacific holds its Mobile Medicare Clinic. Clinic volunteers will be on hand to advise people on choosing cost-saving prescription drug plans and check that all their drugs are safe and effective.

“Most people understand the importance of an annual physical exam. Well, you’ve got to do the same thing with your drug plan,” says Rajul Patel, associate professor at the school of pharmacy in charge of the Mobile Medicare Clinic.

The University of the Pacific launched the mobile clinic after the enactment in 2003 of Medicare Part D, also known as the Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit. The program serves about 39 million people, subsidizing drug costs and expanding access to medicines that might otherwise be unaffordable.

But access is only half the battle, says Patel. Many seniors and other Medicare Part D beneficiaries may struggle simply to navigate all the options.

“It might sound like a benign process,” Patel says, “but in California next year there will be close to 40 different prescription drug plans to choose from, each one with a different list of medications they cover and a different cost structure. So it becomes very overwhelming.”

At Saturday’s fair, a team of 90 pharmacy students supervised by licensed pharmacists will help participants find the lowest-cost drug plan available and get them enrolled. Over the last nine years the Mobile Medicare Clinic has been conducting health fairs around the Bay Area and Central Valley. Simply by getting participants on the right drug plan, the program has saved a total of $3 million, or an average of $896 per enrollee, Patel says.

A January report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, (CDC) found that nearly one in 10 Americans don’t take prescribed medication because they just can’t afford it.

“Sometimes physicians prescribe medications without any idea about the actual out-of-pocket costs,” Patel says. “Although it may be the optimal therapy, if the patients can’t afford it, they’re not going to take it.”

Drug safety is another goal of the Mobile Medicare Clinic. A 2013 investigation by ProPublica, a nonprofit investigative journalism organization, found that while Medicare Part D has helped seniors gain access to drugs, it has failed to properly monitor safety. The analysis found that health care providers across the country prescribe drugs that are potentially harmful, disorienting or addictive.

Things get even more complicated when patients are on numerous medications, due to the risk of dangerous drug interactions.

“Doctors don’t have the time to sit down and evaluate all the patients’ medication,” Patel says.

At the fair, students and pharmacists will go through all the participants’ medications— both prescription and over-the- counter products—and make sure they are safe and effective. They will print out a personalized medication record for each participant, listing all medications, explaining what they’re for, and how and when best to take them. If they catch a medication issue, they will contact the prescriber and identify the problem, making recommendations for resolution, and following it up with a phone call a few days later.

People at the health fair can take advantage of nearly a dozen other health services, including immunizations and tests to measure blood pressure, cholesterol and bone density. Screenings for diabetes, anemia, asthma and other conditions will also be offered. Mental health is high on the agenda this year, Patel says, with screenings for depression, anxiety, memory decline and insomnia, conditions that affect many older people.

This is the second year the Mobile Medicare Clinic has partnered with Allen Temple Baptist Church. Last year it served 100 participants and this year the pharmacists hope for more. The church offers a variety of community health services, including anger management, an annual holistic health fair, and a hot lunch program for people living with HIV. Saturday’s fair is an extension of the church’s mission, an official said.

“Health is an acutely central focus here at Allen Temple Baptist Church,” says Gloria Crowell, executive director of Allen Temple Health and Social Services. “These health offerings play directly into our vision of having a universal intersection of the mind, body, and spirit.”

The fair will take place from 10 AM to 5 PM at Allen Temple Baptist Church, 8501 International Blvd. Attendees should bring their Medicare cards and all of their medications to the fair. Appointments are recommended and can be made by calling (510) 343-2473.

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Photo by Basil D Soufi
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