Most people work for a living. Jalicia Gachelin works to help cancer patients keep living … and to keep them from going bankrupt due to the ever-rising cost of modern cancer care.
As U.S. News & World Report points out, “many newly approved cancer drugs cost an average of $10,000 per month with some therapies topping $30,000 per month.”
Gachelin’s job – as an “oncology financial recovery coordinator” at Vero Beach’s Scully-Welsh cancer center – is finding ways to help her patients cut those costs down to size.
U.S. cancer patients now spend well over $32 billion annually on cancer drugs and another $11 billion more on supportive care medications to help ease the side effects of chemotherapy, according to the annual report from Information Management Services.
Numbers like that could stop a Fortune 500 CEO in his or her tracks, but to the buoyant Gachelin, they’re just more motivation. And a personal challenge.
“What I do,” Gachelin says, “is patient specific. The physician will order medication and a lot of the chemo medications average about $15,000 for a treatment. So I look for some form of assistance. Whether it be drug replacement program, a co-pay grant through a foundation such as Novartis or CancerCare or HealthWell, or one of my favorites – Patient Advocate – because they help patients with Medicare or Medicaid, as well as veterans.”
With Patient Advocate’s help, “we have been able to assist in obtaining over $300,000 in co-pay assistance for oral, intravenous, as well as radiation therapies,” says Gachelin.
In other words, Gachelin isn’t a money-raiser. She’s a money-finder. And by just about anybody’s standards, she has been very successful in the five months she’s been on the job, locating a whopping $750,000 in grants and other financial assistance for local cancer patients.
While Gachelin does indeed find money, she has her own, even more evocative name for what she does. She proudly calls herself “a cancer stalker … for my patients.”
Gachelin not only stalks, she also pushes. Hard. “You have to be a little bit aggressive because if you are not, then who is fighting for the patients?” she says of her approach to securing grants and other forms of financial aid.
While many people think of Vero Beach as the land of wealthy seniors with gold-plated health insurance plans, Gachelin knows a majority of patients don’t fit that profile.
“We have a huge population of patients that need this assistance. I mean we have indigent patients with no health insurance at all. Part of this program is giving them access to cancer care.”
“Just since August,” Gachelin continues, “I have been able to help roughly 300 patients.”
Opportunities to find funds can change as often and as rapidly as the weather.
For example, after Hurricane Irma swept through Florida, Gachelin found a cash grant program through CancerCare and the Leukemia-Lymphoma Society “for all cancer patients in the area affected by the hurricane,” and because of that, she was able to “get about $50,000 in cash for our patients.”
Another grant opportunity, Gachelin recalls, opened at 1 p.m. but by 3 p.m. all the available funds were gone. In that brief two-hour window, however, Gachelin had managed to secure at least some of those dollars for three of her Scully-Welsh patients.
“I really love this role. I love helping patients. I just want the community to know that [Scully-Welsh] is on top of the latest medications, the latest treatments and giving them a fighting chance at beating cancer. My job is to make that treatment accessible [and affordable] to our patients.”
Scully Welsh Cancer Center is located at 3555 10th Ct, Vero Beach; the phone number is 772-794-3333.