Access to Care Connects Hard-Working Couple with Medical Emergency Resources
Rachel and Allan Phinney
Rachel Phinney of Windham, Maine never thought she would need financial support until her cancer bills dwindled her savings. Rachel’s husband, Allan added, “we are small business owners and typically do not need any help.” The couple’s social security income, plus their business income, was usually enough to cover their expenses. When the pandemic hit in March 2020 and their sign production business slowed down, Rachel was hospitalized with both ovarian and colon cancer.
The Phinneys had been through a lot in over 50 years of marriage, but nothing had prepared them for Rachel’s three bouts with cancer over the past 16 years. “This time it was a blur after many days in the hospital recovering from surgery and then several months of follow-up visits and treatments,” said Rachel. Allan was trying to take care of Rachel and their business, along with managing medical bills coming in that were not covered by Medicare or their supplemental insurance.
“We were caught in a gap – everything hitting us at once,” added Rachel. While Rachel was at Maine Medical Center, an oncology social worker referred the Phinneys to the MaineHeath Access to Care team.
Over the past two decades, MaineHealth Access to Care has helped vulnerable populations navigate the complexities of the health care system to ensure comprehensive, affordable health care and improve the quality of life. Katiuska (Kat) Cabral, Program Manager, explained that Access to Care is well known for being a champion for low-income families. “We are not a program that comes to mind when other populations need assistance,” she said.
“When I called Rachel’s home, she was in the hospital, and I spoke to Allan, who explained all the out-of-pocket expenses that they were running into due to their Medicare insurance,” said Kat. Expenses included medical visits and medication co-payments and inpatient fees, plus the monthly fees of paying for Medicare Part B coverage. Kat helped them apply for the Medicare Savings Program, which covered the Medicare Part B expenses, and for grants that assisted with electric bills and funds for medications through a prescription assistance program.
Rachel and Allan Phinney enjoy quiet time in their backyard after many months of health and financial struggles. “Even though I’m a fighter,” said Rachel, “I couldn’t have done this alone. Allan has been there for me all the time.”
Coverage Team Becomes a Lifeline
Access to Care’s coverage team includes both outpatient and inpatient case management services. In addition, it connects patients to community resources related to social determinants of health. Their Patient Assistance Line helps patients find resources to manage health insurance, medications, transportation, housing and food insecurity.
Rachel credits Kat as their lifeline and foundation. “We don’t know what we would have done without her support and helping us connect to resources. Kat continues to send us paperwork and checks on us. She made the form completion streamlined for us,” said Rachel.
The Phinneys have been a part of the Windham Cancer Support Group from its inception and continue to be active participants. “We try to share what we have learned with others who have cancer and their family members. You never know who might be worse off or need help. It’s important to give back,” said Allan.
Access to Care champions the positon that health care should be available, affordable and accessible for everyone. Do you know someone who could use a helping hand? Contact the Patient Assistance Line (PAL) to be screened for eligible programs by calling 1-833-MHHELP1 or 207-661-5500.