While insurance is a great way to reduce your rheumatoid arthritis (RA) costs—for prescription medications, physical therapies, surgeries, etc.—it’s likely you’ll still have to foot the bill for some out-of-pocket expenditures, such as copays and deductibles. Fortunately, there are lots of ways to save on these extra expenses. Read on for some cost-cutting secrets to try today.
- Clarify your coverage. To avoid surprises—and a major headache—find out what’s covered in your medical policy before your appointment. Ask your insurance company for a summary plan description, which details how your plan works. If you’re unsure of something, call the company and take notes as you speak with them.
- Set up a spending account. If your employer offers it, consider setting up a flexible spending account (FSA), which allows you to reserve a portion of your paycheck for out-of-pocket medical costs—tax-free! One caveat: Any funds that aren’t used by the end of the year will be lost, so make sure you carefully estimate how much to contribute (the annual limit is $2,500). For help, use your prior year’s bills as a guide, or ask your healthcare provider. And ask your company’s chief financial officer or human resources department for more details.
- Save paperwork. According to a survey by the Consumer Reports National Research Center, 16% of people lost money or incurred a charge because of poorly organized paperwork. Keep all receipts and other documents somewhere safe and handy, so you’ll always be prepared if you need to review (for example, clarifying that you didn’t pay for a procedure you never had). Also, keep your most recent annual insurance policy accessible. Because policies are renewed each year, shred expired paperwork to avoid confusion.
- Question referrals. If you’re referred to another specialist, such as a physical therapist, for alternative care, confirm that they’re in your plan (in-network) or you may be hit with some unwelcome fees. Ask your insurance company or call the referral professional office for a recommendation of in-network healthcare providers.
- Go generic. Generic drugs typically cost less than brand-name medications. If you’re prescribed an over-the-counter brand-name drug, ask your healthcare provider whether a generic version is available and appropriate to use. If not, call the drug company—they may be able to suggest a cheaper medication. Note: Generic biologics aren’t currently available.
- Speak up. Talk with your rheumatologist about any financial issues—if they don’t know you’re having trouble affording something, they can’t help you. Your physician may be able to provide free samples of medications or call pharmaceutical companies to get your drugs at a reduced price.
- Get help. Whether it’s a patient assistance plan, a private foundation or a state program, many organizations offer copay coverage, discounted or free drugs and other money-saving initiatives. Not sure where to start? Visit NeedyMeds, a nonprofit resource that helps people find assistance programs. Also ask your pharmacy whether they offer any discount programs.