By Jenny Lelwica Buttaccio
One of the most common questions we get asked is: How can I save money on my treatment? This is an essential question, because being able to afford necessary medications, supplements, and herbal therapies is key to achieving successful treatment outcomes. What’s more, you shouldn’t have to choose between, say, buying groceries or paying your rent or mortgage and obtaining the tools you need to improve your health.
We understand that treating chronic Lyme disease can place an enormous financial strain on patients and their families. Although we probably can’t entirely solve this problem for you, hopefully we can offer suggestions for easing some of the financial burdens associated with an illness that often comes with a high cost.
To help you, we’ve rounded up our five best money-saving strategies so that you can focus more on healing your body and less on how you’re going to pay for your recovery.
1. Always Keep a Copy of Your Medical Records on Hand.
It’s not uncommon for chronic Lyme patients to build a team of medical professionalsto assist with healing. The types of healthcare providers on your list might include a Lyme-literate medical doctor, a general practitioner, a specialist, and a physical therapist. But the cost of working with multiple providers can quickly add up, especially if new practitioners want to have a record of your most current tests and lab results.
To avoid having to repeat tests that you or your insurance company have already paid for, ask for copies of your visits, lab reports, and other diagnostic tests. In case you switch providers or add another member to your team, you’ll have your medical history and other beneficial medical information at your disposal. This might also allow you to begin Lyme treatment faster than if you had to request your records from multiple clinics or providers and wait for those results to arrive.
To keep your medical records organized, consider storing recent documents in one place in a folder, a binder, or on your computer. Generally, medical records from within the last year will be most relevant, but if you’ve been dealing with the symptoms of Lyme disease for a while, your healthcare provider may want to take a deeper dive into your health history.
2. Stay Ahead of Your Budget.
In the world of Lyme disease and other chronic illnesses such as fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome, it can be extremely tempting to buy all sorts of products that other patients say have helped them — and there is no shortage of possibilities to choose from. Before you know it, you’ve thrown away a lot of money for mixed results without even realizing it.
Just like you would make a budget for living expenses, groceries, or car repairs, figure out the amount of money you can set aside each month for Lyme treatment, including supplements, medications, and doctor visits. Here are a few money-saving strategies that might help you stretch your budget a little further:
Go for Generic Drugs.
If you’re taking prescription medications, ask your doctor if generic drugs are a suitable alternative for your situation. The co-pays for generic medications are often significantly less than those for name-brand drugs.
Ask for Medication Samples.
If your doctor prescribes you a medication that is newer on the market, consider asking for samples of the drug before you fill the prescription. That way, you’ll be able to try it without the added expense to make sure you can tolerate it and handle any associated side effects.
Request Rates on Bulk Medication Orders.
Sometimes, you may find that buying your medications in a larger quantity — like a 60- or 90-day supply — can reduce the cost of prescription drugs. This applies to those who get medications through a compounding pharmacy, too.
Next time you fill a prescription, ask what the price is for a bulk supply. Even if the cost is just $10 or $20 cheaper, that adds up over time.
Comparison Shop for the Best Prescription Price.
Were you aware that the cost of medications can vary from one pharmacy to another? You might be surprised to learn how much money you can save by simply doing a little price shopping. Plus, the following discount coupons and programs may help to reduce the costs of pricey medications further:
- GoodRx: Whether you have health insurance or not, GoodRx can be used to lower the cost of your prescription medications. The program compares drug prices across a variety of pharmacies in your area and features discount coupons, so you can see where you’ll get the best price. The GoodRx service is available to you regardless of your income.
- Prescription Hope: To qualify for this program, you must meet certain income guidelines. For individuals making approximately $30,000 per year, households with a combined annual income of $50,000, or households with additional dependents making up to $100,000 per year, Prescription Hope may be able to help you access pricey medications for $50 per month for each drug. Currently, the program has access to more than 1,500 FDA-approved medications. Note that you must set up an account to begin using this service.
- RxAssist: If you can’t afford to pay for your medications, RxAssist has a database of different patient assistance programs offered through pharmaceutical companies to offset the cost. To qualify, you must be uninsured, demonstrate financial hardship, or have insurance that does not cover your drug costs.
Take Advantage of Perks from Supplement Companies.
Not everyone responds well to medications, particularly when you’re dealing with persistent Lyme disease symptoms. For many people, herbal therapy offers the most cost-effective, natural solutions, and it’s not likely to carry the same sticker shock as different combinations of drug therapies, says Dr. Bill Rawls, Medical Director of RawlsMD and Vital Plan, who restored his health using herbs.
When you factor in time, energy, and money spent on tracking down treatment approaches, herbs rise to the top for their efficacy and safety for budget-conscious people. Even still, sometimes any expense can feel like a burden when your budget is tight. But there are a few tricks for getting the best prices on herbal therapies, too.
- Sign up for newsletters. Periodically, herb and supplement companies will offer discounts and promotional codes for their products, especially around the holidays. If you’re on their email list, you’ll be the first to know about these deals, and you won’t miss out on the lower price.
- Choose from companies who have return policies. Some companies have a money-back guarantee on their products if you’re not satisfied with your purchase. Note, however, that return policies will differ from one company to another. In some instances, you might be able to return an unopened product for a full refund as long as you do so by a specific date. In other cases, you may be able to receive a partial refund if the product has been opened or used.
- Avoid shipping costs. Not all companies offer free shipping, so costs can quickly add up. To avoid a hefty price tag, look for online retailers who offer free shipping with a minimum purchase order.
- Consider automatic shipping. Some companies will give you the option to subscribe to automatic shipping for your favorite products. Typically, this feature allows you to get herbs and supplements cheaper if you sign up to have the product autoshipped to you on a monthly, bimonthly, or quarterly basis. Plus, you won’t have the hassle of trying to remember when it’s time for a refill.
- Sign up for rewards programs. If you’re going to spend money more than once with a certain company, you should be rewarded for your loyalty. Some companies offer free programs that allow you to earn points for doing things like making a purchase, sharing a product review, referring a friend, or “liking” them on social media. Those points are then redeemable for discounts on future purchases, free gifts, and more.
3. Make the Most of Your Doctors Appointments.
Why is it that after you leave a doctor’s appointment, your brain becomes flooded with questions you wished you had asked? Unfortunately, some healthcare providers charge for emails or phone calls once you leave the office, making correspondence with them another financial stress.
The next time you’re scheduled to see a doctor, prepare for it in advance so that you can make the most of your appointment. As questions or concerns come to mind, write them down on a notepad or in your phone. The night before your appointment, review your questions to make sure you’ve jotted down the primary areas you want to address.
The next day, be sure to take your list with you, and before your appointment ends, take a moment to look through it and clarify any remaining matters. Hopefully, this allows you to minimize potentially costly back-and-forth communications.
4. Know Your Insurance Plan.
Have you taken the time to read up on your health insurance policy, whether it’s through your employer or elsewhere? If not, now is a good time to start, so you understand the types of services, tests, procedures, or medications that could come out of your pocket.
Although many Lyme specialists, such as Lyme-literate medical doctors (LLMDs), probably won’t be in your insurance network, oftentimes you can do blood work and other testing at places that are in-network, saving you a bunch of money. (Of course, you might be able to find an in-network doctor, too!)
If your doctor is out-of-network, however, you might be able to submit your bill (known as a superbill) to your insurance for partial reimbursement, or it’s possible the amount could be applied to your out-of-network deductible. Additionally, your insurance might cover visits for several adjunct treatments like chiropractic care, physical therapy, counseling services, and even acupuncture, which can help you create a robust healthcare team to assist in your healing.
5. Talk to the Billing Department of Your Hospital or Clinic.
Recently, I went to the hospital to have some blood work done. As I was leaving the building, I walked past the billing department and decided to stop in to see if I had an outstanding balance from a previous test. As it turns out, I did, and I offered to pay my balance on the spot.
The billing assistant began tallying my total — then, she told me she could give me a 25% discount for paying in person. I was pleasantly surprised, and I asked whether this was the hospital’s standard procedure. As a matter of fact, it was. I could receive a 25% discount on any bill that I paid in person. Over time, I’ll save a bundle of money.
If you have unpaid hospital or clinic bills, it’s worth calling the billing department or visiting them in person. Although not every medical facility will offer a reduced rate, you might be able to work out an affordable payment plan with them, so you can continue treatment without worrying about how you’re going to cover the costs.
By understanding your insurance benefits, shopping around, preparing for your doctor’s appointments, and considering your treatment options, you can begin to save money slowly. Over time, the small steps you make can add up to significant healthcare savings, which can help you keep going on your road to recovery.
Dr. Rawls is a physician who overcame Lyme disease through natural herbal therapy. You can learn more about Lyme disease in Dr. Rawls’ new best selling book, Unlocking Lyme. You can also learn about Dr. Rawls’ personal journey in overcoming Lyme disease and fibromyalgia in his popular blog post, My Chronic Lyme Journey.
I found the following helpful:
- Keep a monthly calendar where you write down your main daily symptoms. You can then take that information, notice trends, and write an executive monthly summary. We saw our LLMD every 2-3 months – for two people – and this helped me keep my head. It also keeps your appointment on task.
- Don’t be afraid to look into Canadian pharmacies. I could find drugs at a fraction of the cost. Make sure you plan ahead as many take upwards of a month to obtain. Sometimes you have to purchase larger quantities as well. Try to plan this with your doctor to be most cost effective.
- Check into programs run by the drug manufacturers. Some have programs for drugs at a reduced rate if you qualify.
- Check out Goodrx.com. GoodRx collects prices and discounts from over 70,000 U.S. pharmacies and compares them. Print out the coupons and take to your pharmacy.
- Herbal companies often have sales and specials. Try to take advantage of those. They also sometimes have deals on purchasing quantities up front, which could reduce costs for you.
- Ask other patients at support group. If we put our heads together we can figure out ways to cut costs.