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5 Tips for Becoming Financially Equipped for Living With Chronic Illness

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Everyone benefits from strong financial management skills, but it’s extra important to be money-wise when you live with chronic or rare diseases.

If you live with one or more illnesses or conditions, there are three very important words: “cost of care.” Every time you go to the doctor’s office or pick up prescription, you’re reminded just how expensive it is to be sick.

Living with a chronic disease can be tough, but planning and being informed can make a big difference in your life and your savings. Here are five tips on how to be smart and stay on top of your health-related finances:

1. Create a budget.

Go through your medical bills from the last year and see how much you spent on your chronic condition. This includes copays, premiums, lab work, imaging, specialist visits and more. Create a spreadsheet and keep it updated. Make a new column with an estimate of how much you spent this past year so you can estimate how much you need to put aside on a weekly and monthly basis for the year ahead.

2. Know your insurance options.

Review your current insurance plan and compare it to last year to see if anything has changed. Things to look out for are an increase in your copay, decrease in your out-of-pocket maximum, or changes in your deductible. Coverage amounts can change year-to-year even if you have the same plan, so it is important to review your plan closely and regularly. If you have questions, ask your provider. After that, examine all your insurance options, including Health Exchange plans, purchasing secondary insurance, using your spouse’s plan or sticking with one provided by your employer. Remember that Open Enrollment for 2019 starts on November 1, 2019 — the first day you can enroll, re-enroll or change a 2020 insurance plan through the Health Insurance Marketplace.

3. Ask your pharmacist.

Pharmacists are highly educated health care professionals that can serve as trusted counselors on the treatment possibilities available to you. Your pharmacist can consult with your doctors to review all existing options and if less expensive over-the-counter generics are available. Your pharmacist can also inform you if the cash price of your medication is less than the required insurance copay, which is sometimes the case.

4. Identify assistance resources.

Understand the possibilities and have a plan for different scenarios. Identify private and public resources, such as nonprofit assistance programs or state or federal programs you may qualify for. Individuals who are uninsured may qualify for lower cost or even free prescriptions. For people on government-sponsored plans like Medicare, copay assistance groups may be able to help cover out-of-pocket expenses. If getting to and from treatment centers is financially challenging, consider travel assistance options. Uber Health now partners with national patient assistance charities like ours to provide reliable, comfortable transportation to patients and their caregivers so that getting to and from medical appointments is never a barrier to access to care.

5. Be organized.

Create and keep updated a personal care binder with all this information and more. Include resources, budget information and insurance coverage. List your prescription costs and identify if cheaper alternatives are available. A complete financial section of a care binder should include all forms of insurance (disability, health, home and car), estate planning (even if you don’t have an “estate”), HIPAA releases, living wills, advanced directives, trusts and health proxies.

Getting your finances on track when living with chronic or rare conditions can be daunting. But taking these steps will make you more knowledgeable about your health and empower you to make decisions that could help save you money.

Photo by Persnickety Prints on Unsplash

Originally published: September 3, 2019
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