340B Health

Faces of 340B

Kathleen Cavanagh, Caldwell, Idaho

For Kathleen Cavanagh, finding the 340B program was a momentous event that she describes as a “happy accident.” With a host of serious medical conditions, including type 1 diabetes, asthma, high blood pressure, and bipolar disorder, Kathleen was reliant on various prescription assistance programs to help pay the high costs of her many medications. But those programs only covered about half of her drug bills, the rest of which she was responsible for covering on very limited means. At times, that meant switching to lower-priced medicines that didn’t work as well, or even worse, going without certain drugs because she couldn’t afford them. Her physical and mental health suffered greatly as a result. So when patient care coordinators at St. Luke’s Humphreys Diabetes Center in Boise, Idaho, unexpectedly told Kathleen that she would be eligible for insulin and other needed drugs at no cost to her through the St. Luke’s 340B Assist program, she was overcome with emotion. “I didn’t expect to cry, it was just so overwhelming,” Kathleen says. “It made me feel so good, because every month, you have to figure out, ‘What medications can I fill this month? Do I need my asthma medicine? Which do I need more, my asthma medicine or my heart medicine?’ And I always need my insulin, because I wouldn’t even live three days without the insulin.” Kathleen is just one of numerous patients that St. Luke’s is able to help through its 340B savings, but this assistance would not be possible if Congress or the administration were to make serious cutbacks to the 340B program. And that’s a scenario that she says “scares me so much.” St. Luke’s and Kathleen are also very aware that 340B’s support of the safety net not only helps keep her healthy but also saves money for the entire health system. Prior to her enrollment in 340B Assist, she became so ill from not being able to take all of her medications that she ended up in the hospital three times. Since St. Luke’s brought 340B into her life, she hasn’t been hospitalized once – a streak that she hopes will continue for a long time to come.