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Patients’ Advocates Receive Everyday Angels Surprise Visit from Dr. Pate

St. Luke’s Health System President and CEO Dr. David Pate recently thanked Rheumatology employees (left to right) Susann Ingman, Amber Mandelbaum, and Kristen Leininger for securing $145,000 in grant funding for 45 patients.
By Brent Boyer, News and Community
March 18, 2016

Flying fingers and fast talk, not necessarily requirements of the job, were the winning combination for a winning trio of St. Luke’s employees who recently came through on behalf of dozens of struggling patients.

Battling a serious health condition is hard enough on its own. For many patients, the added time and stress spent navigating health insurance coverage, including obtaining pre-authorizations for life-saving medications that can cost as much as $45,000 per treatment, is an additional and often overwhelming burden.

That’s where Amber Mandelbaum, Susann Ingman and Kristen Leininger come in. The trio of St. Luke’s Rheumatology employees work behind the scenes to handle prior authorization for patients, diligently obtaining insurance authorization for infusion, biologic and oral medication; some of these drugs can cost tens of thousands of dollars.

But these three, working tirelessly to secure free medications available through grant programs offered by pharmaceutical companies for patients with Medicare and Medicaid, take it to a whole new level. Their dedication and perseverance was rewarded in a big way earlier this year, when they phone-swarmed the Patient Access Network and Foundation, which make monies available once a year in January at an unannounced date and time.

Beginning Jan. 4, Mandelbaum checked every morning at 5 a.m. – that’s when the Patient Access office on the East Coast opened – to see if the funding cycle had begun. On Jan. 8, the funds opened at 8 a.m., and the women were ready. Upon receiving the call from her co-workers, Ingman even came in on her day off to help apply for the grants for patients.

They had prepared a list of patients prioritized by need. They entered applications from the moment the system opened until the funding was exhausted about four hours later.

And by the time all the money had been allocated, they had secured $145,000 in grant funding for approximately 45 patients, many of whom had been declining treatment because of the high costs. Every patient on their list received some level of grant funding. 

While their efforts were for the benefit of patients, the behind-the-scenes dedication was worthy of its own recognition. Last week, St. Luke’s Health System President and CEO Dr. David Pate surprised the three women with Everyday Angel pins, certificates and floral arrangements. 

About The Author

Brent Boyer was formerly the senior coordinator of social media for St. Luke’s Health System.

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