Are you struggling to keep up with the cost of your prescription arthritis medicines? You’re not alone. Here are some tips that may reduce your costs and keep your budget healthy. Learn more helpful information about navigating the health care system in the Arthritis Foundation's Access to Care for Arthritis guide.
For most of the past century, there were few options for treating the pain or inflammation of arthritis. Now, doctors have a varied, sophisticated arsenal of treatments to fight the disease – but too often, their patients struggle to afford them, even with insurance.
Prescription drug use is higher than ever before and as the bulk of the population ages, more and more people will be filling prescriptions for their medical conditions. According to the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics:
- Five out of six Americans age 65 or older take at least one prescription
- Half the people in that age group take three or more prescription drugs.
- Prescription drugs make up about ten percent of the total health bill for the average American.
- Prescriptions are the fastest growing expense – the cost of drugs rose five percent in 2002, for example, but pushed the total bill up more than 15 percent.
The CDC study showed that drug price increases persist year after year, so how can you keep affording the drugs you need?There are no easy answers, particularly with a tightening economy. But here are some strategies to take now:
Explore mail-order or specialty pharmacy options. Your pharmacy may offer mail-order services for prescription drugs you use regularly, and in many cases, ordering in bulk through mail order can save you money. Many insurance policies also encourage you to utilize mail-order services for ongoing prescriptions and pay more of the cost when you do. Contact your insurance company to find out more about these options. You may have to use a designated mail-order pharmacy, or you may be able to use the service from most of the national pharmacy chains.
Budget for anticipated costs. Keep track of your ongoing medical expenses, such as monthly insurance premiums or regular prescription costs, so you can be aware of the impact these charges will have on your monthly income. Personal budgeting software programs or workbooks may be able to help you create a simple monthly budget that measures your health-care costs along with other essential needs. Your insurance company even may be able to help you – some insurance companies’ Web sites offer resources for creating health-care budgets, such as this one from Humana.
Explore Health Savings Accounts, if you have insurance with a high deductible. Health Savings Accounts, or HSAs, may be available to people with high-deductible insurance policies to enable them to store away money on a tax-free basis to pay for later health expenses. These accounts are made with banks, credit unions, insurance companies and similar institutions.
Explore Flexible Spending Accounts at work to pay for some medical expenses. Flexible Spending Accounts, or FSAs, are increasingly common benefits at some workplaces. FSAs allow employees to store away money from their paychecks before taxes are taken out in a special account used to pay for approved medical expenses. In some cases, these expenses may include purchases you make often for your arthritis that are not covered by your insurance policy, such as bandages, ice packs, over-the-counter medications like topical analgesic creams or aspirin, or heating pads. Costs for these items can really add up, so putting money away in an FSA can provide for these costs with tax-free income. Many FSAs provide a convenient debit card for you to use at stores to pay for purchases from this account. Ask your benefits specialist if an FSA is available. This article from the Internal Revenue Service offers some basic information on setting side pre-tax income for eligible medical expenses.
Utilize the Partnership for Prescription Assistance and other assistance programs of the pharmaceutical industry. Pharmaceutical companies that manufacture and sell prescription drugs want you to be able to use their products, so the major American drug companies have set up the Partnership for Prescription Assistance, a program to help qualified patients who may lack coverage gain access to the drugs they need. In addition, the company that manufactures the drug you are prescribed may be able to advocate on your behalf with your insurance company when you are denied coverage in some cases.
See if your drug’s manufacturers offer coupons, discounts or assistance programs. See if your drug company has a program.
Save on Drugs
Learn more helpful information about navigating the health care system in the Arthritis Foundation's Access to Care for Arthritis guide.