Q&A with Dan Barnes, CEO and Susan Gilmore, Executive Director, Community Engagement, FamilyWize

Posted April 22nd, 2015 by

FamilyWize Community Service Partnership is committed to helping improve the health and well being of individuals and communities. High-cost prescription medications can be the cause of financial stress for uninsured or under-insured consumers. In fact, cost is the number one reason people do not take their prescribed medications, which impacts the short-term and long-term health and financial stability of individuals and communities. FamilyWize’s mission is to reduce these challenges by making prescriptions more affordable for all, and helping people and communities live healthier and happier lives.

The FamilyWize Community Service Partnership was established by Dan Barnes in 2005 to help those in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley get the medicines they need and deserve access to. Eight years later, Susan Gilmore, who had spent 25 years with the United Way at the local and national levels, joined the firm, adding her partnership and community expertise to their strengths.

Today, FamilyWize touches families in all 50 states and the FamilyWize pharmacy discount card is accepted at more than 60,000 pharmacies across the country, including CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid, Kmart and Walmart.

Dan, tell us how you came up with the concept of the FamilyWize card and your vision when you first started.

DB:  The idea for FamilyWize came when my wife, who is a nurse, and I learned that a large part of our community could not afford their medications. With my expertise in wholesale consumer group buying in travel, we knew that I could apply my skills to finding ways to lower the cost of prescription medications.

Our initial idea was to provide a free assistance program to lower the cost of medicine, and with that financial aid, encourage individuals to fill and take prescriptions as directed. This plan ultimately became what FamilyWize is today: a community partner and health and wellness advocate that provides free prescription discount cards to people in need.

From your beginnings in the little town of Bethlehem (Pennsylvania) to the present day, what do the numbers look like?

DB:  It has been a joy to see a small program that started for our local community grow rapidly over the last 10 years into what is now a nationwide community service partnership serving people in all 50 states.

We have the privilege of working with over 100,000 community, public sector and healthcare partners as well as other business partners in this endeavor. Together, we have been able to help 8 million people receive over $2 billion of prescription medications, with cost reductions of over $800 million. This is money that they can put back in their pockets to stretch their budgets and expand resources for their families in the communities where they live.

Here’s a question for both of you: What impact, if any, has the Affordable Care Act had on your business?

DB: Many people that were uninsured and are now able to get health insurance as a result of being eligible through the Affordable Care Act, particularly those that were enrolled through Medicaid expansion, for the most part, no longer need assistance of this kind.

However, there is now a growing number of what we call “under-insured” individuals. This group has health insurance, but deductibles that are so high that their prescription costs are still unmanageable. We estimate that there are still well over 80 million people that need assistance, and because of this, we have established a goal of helping 25 million people save on their prescription medication costs by the end of 2020.

Now Susan, can you tell us a bit about your association with the United Way and how you helped forge that partnership for FamilyWize?

SG:  I was a United Way professional for 25 years and served at the national level with United Way Worldwide and as CEO of the United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley, PA and in Amarillo, TX.   When we realized the impact that this assistance could have on our communities, we pulled together our partner agencies to try and get this free program out to as many people as possible, including the employees of many businesses that participated in our workplace campaigns. The program grew rapidly into a national effort and created a partnership with United Way Worldwide and almost 1000 of the 1200 local United Ways.

I was asked to join FamilyWize to lead the efforts with our community partners and to provide support and strategy so that together we can reach more people.

And what about your other partnerships – is that 50,000 number correct?

The number of partners now exceeds 100,000. Naturally it’s a challenge to coordinate that many partners, and our partnership with United Ways at the local level has been extraordinarily helpful.

As we learn more about where the need is greatest and where we can be most effective, we continue to add partnerships at both the local and national level. We are privileged to have national partners that include United Way Worldwide, the American Heart Association, the National Council on Aging, America’s Promise, the National Human Services Assembly, and the National Hispanic Medical Association, among many others.

And, Susan, it’s pretty clear that FamilyWize offers people real value. How do you see online communities like PatientsLikeMe adding to that value?

SG: We have learned over the past 10 years that a program like ours only grows through word of mouth. While we have reached 8 million people, it has been one person at a time.

We believe that online communities like PatientsLikeMe are critically important to increasing awareness of our program and helping individuals understand how important medication therapy is and that financial help is available.

Dan, your website says your goal of the FamilyWize Community Service Partnership is to save families and individuals $1 billion on prescription medicine by the end of this year.

What would you consider the biggest obstacles to meeting that goal?

DB: In a word, awareness. We have the tools to help but most of the people who need this help are not aware that it is even available to them. We are closing in on the goal that we set five years ago to save consumers $1 billion dollars on prescription medications, but reaching more people is an ongoing challenge. However, with partnerships and communities such as PatientsLikeMe, we believe that we can reach more people, more rapidly, with the help of trusted voices.

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