Cost Cutting Tips While Treating Chronic Illness

Many of us suffering with chronic illness like postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), mitochondrial disease, fibromyalgia, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, and many others feel the financial impact of our illnesses and are looking for ways to reduce our costs without sacrificing the quality of our treatments.  While we need to continue seeing physicians and buying prescription medications and supplements, there are ways to save money.

Suggestions for Saving on Prescription Medications

Prescription medications1. Compare pharmacy prices in your area

Comparing prices only takes a few minutes if you use some of the sites below to check pharmacies.  The price of a given prescription varies widely from one pharmacy to another even within your town.  Split your prescriptions between pharmacies if necessary to get the best possible prices on the medications that you need daily. 

These are good sites to compare pharmacy prices on your prescriptions in your city.  A few minutes might save you a lot of money!  Be careful, though, as some may be taken in place of your insurance and therefore don't count toward your deductible.

2. Use coupons for your medications when possible

Many people think about coupons for hair conditioner, cleaning supplies or food, but not for medication.  You can actually save a great deal of money by printing coupons for your medications from the web or presenting them from your SmartPhone when you fill your prescriptions each month.  You can find coupons for free Epipens, and save big money on monthly medications.  You can search for coupons for your medication online, or use sites like GoodRx.com

3. Use FREE Prescription Discount Cards to save each time you fill your prescription
4. Don’t assume that you are getting the best price when paying your insurance co-pay at the pharmacy.  My copay was $10/month, and I found the same prescription for $4/month or $10/three months at other pharmacies.  That savings adds up quickly if you take many medications each month.  Check these lists to see if you could be getting your prescriptions cheaper than your copay – they are not all the same!
5. Look at online pharmacies, if you insurance will allow it.  Insurance will often allow these pharmacies to give three month quantities instead of one month at a time.  This saves money in copays.  In addition, online pharmacies are often much less expensive than retail pharmacies.
 
6. Don’t assume that over-the-counter medications are cheaper than prescription medications. Because of changing insurance, I asked for a prescription for Zyrtec that I had been buying over-the-counter for months.  In this case, the prescription was 75% LESS than buying the generic version over-the-counter.
 
7. In some cases, you might be able to get the pharmaceutical company to give you the medications at no charge.  This requires a lot of paperwork, from your prescribing physician and from you, but it is possible in some cases.  They often require proof that your prescription is being denied by your insurance company, and evidence from your doctor that this particular medication is actually helping you.
 
These links match prescriptions that qualify for assistance with the specific programs that can help you.  Trying these links is a good first step to see if you might qualify for prescription assistance.

 Compare prices for medical devices

Compare prices and look for coupons for medical devices like compression stockings, cooling vests, wheelchairs, canes, etc.  Check to see if insurance will cover the cost of your medical device – this can save you a lot of money.   Here are some sample sites to check out before paying for your medical device.

Avoid the Emergency Department, if possible. 

Obviously, there are times when you must go directly to the emergency room for an ongoing medical issue.  If that is the case, by all means go!  For some problems, though, you can get the help that you need in other ways that might cost you less.  If you can see your own doctor, that is likely the least expensive route for care, especially if they can prescribe the IV saline or pain medications that you require.  If you can't see your own physician, you might try a local urgent care center.  This is a much cheaper option than the emergency room.  

If most of your visits to the emergency room are for IV fluids, try to set up a more routine (and less expensive) option for getting that treatment.  If you can get an order for regular IV saline, try setting up your treatment through home healthcare or a local infusion center.  Cancer centers, for instance, are a great place to get your infusion that you might not consider.

Decreasing Travel Costs When Visiting a Distant Physician/Medical Center

1. If taking your child to a distant hospital, check to see if there is a nearby Ronald McDonald House

These facilities are available to families travelling a distance to get medical care for a child under the age of 18, whether you need to stay just one night for for several weeks.  The Ronald McDonald Houses offer a cost effective and family friendly environment for those with medically fragile children.  They offer family rooms, laundry facilities, and a kitchen so that you can continue to care for your family.

2. If staying in a hotel while travelling to a medical center, ask specifically for a discounted rate associated with that hospital

Many hotels close to large medical centers want our business, and some will give hefty discounts to get and keep your business. When travelling to the Cleveland Clinic, we stayed in a upscale, downtown hotel for $99 per night (with a $80 discount for mentioning the Cleveland Clinic).  Some hotels require you to show paperwork with the appointment date and time in order to get the discount.  We had a similar experience when finding hotels for Cincinnati Children's Hospital.  Don't hesitate to ask!

3. Consider medical care via Skype or telephone to avoid the hassle and expense of travelling to a specialist

There are some well known specialists who will conduct their appointments by phone or Skype in leiu of the traditional office visit.  For many with invisible illnesses, the specialists are few and far between and require extensive travel to reach them.  Appointments over the phone saves the expense of travel and hotels, while decreasing the physical and emotional stress of the medically fragile patient.

4. If you have to fly, check out the Medical Transportation Grant Program offered by Southwest Airlines.  They provide complimentary, roundtrip tickets to nonprofit hospitals and medical transportation organizations.

Make your own electrolyte drink

Instead of buying Powerade, Gatorade, Propel or other electrolyte drinks, you can make your own at home.  If you can’t make your own, or don’t want to, you can save money by buying the powdered form of these drinks and adding water in your own container at home. 

Here’s an easy recipe to try:

  • 3 teaspoons sugar, honey, maple syrup, or juice per cup of water or herbal tea (use equivalent of 50 calories per cup)
  • A pinch of salt
  • Any desired flavorings (squeeze of lemon, lime, orange).  

Here are some other recipes that you can try if you want to make Homemade Electrolyte Sports Drinks.

Filling your own capsules

Gel capsThis is a much less expensive option if you have the time to make your own capsules rather than buying them pre-packaged.  Buy the gel caps (Amazon or another site) and then fill it with salt, herbs, turmeric or something else that you have bought cheaply in bulk. We have made 1,000 capsules for about the same price that I paid for 200 prepackaged capsules of Himalayan pink salt.  That’s a big savings!

This video shows how to fill pill capsules by hand

 Free or low-cost grocery delivery

Some local and chain grocery stores will deliver for free with a minimum purchase.  If transportation or standing in the store is an issue, this might be worth investigating. 

Getting the most out of Amazon.com

Amazon offers 15% off many products if you put them on a regular buying cycle.  This is great for over-the-counter medications and other supplements that you use daily and need to order periodically.

Amazon Prime, while it has an annual fee, can be cost effective if you order regularly.  Using Amazon Prime, nearly everything is delivered for free and you get free streaming music services and other perks as well.  If you order everything online, this may be well worth the initial investment.

Managing your Money while Balancing Chronic Illness

Savings Guide for People wih Disability

Financial Planning for Patients with Chronic Illness

Planning Checklist for Chronic Illness