Living with Migraines - The Financial Side
One of the most formidable and frustration parts of living with Migraine disease is the financial side of things. As with anything in life, prior preparation is essential, so considering the financial ins and outs of living with Migraine or another headache disorder is essential.
Everyone has their own situation in which they live, but let's take a look at some of the most common financial issues and some of the possible options for handling them:
Health insurance coverage:
This is a tough area to discuss at this point in time with the U.S. health care system and insurance coverage in the midst of changes, but one fact isn't going to change. It's difficult to afford much in the way of health care without insurance coverage, and it's expensive. There are some things to be watchful of:
- If you have group health insurance coverage, be careful not to have gaps in coverage. COBRA coverage is meant to cover us when we change employment or find ourselves temporarily unemployed. It generally requires that group health plans sponsored by employers with 20 or more employees in the prior year offer employees and their families the opportunity for a temporary extension of health coverage (called continuation coverage) in certain instances where coverage under the plan would otherwise end. So, it can help us stay covered until new group coverage takes effect.
- Whenever there are options regarding different options or plans, study them carefully before committing to them. Once selected, we're generally locked into them for at least a year, until the following year's enrollment period.
- If we have the option of choosing different plans or options each year, it's worth it to carefully review and evaluate what's available each year. Even if they appear, on the surface, to be the same as the previous year, there may be changes. Also, our circumstances may have changed enough that changes in our insurance coverage would be advantageous.
When our primary care physicians treat us for our Migraines, it goes without saying that we need to see them on a regular basis. Migraine is a disease for which, at this time, there is no cure. So, like it or not, we're stuck with it, and we need to have a doctor. If we get a Migraine that lasts for days, doesn't respond to our medications, or is the worst we've ever had, we need to be seen by a doctor, and the emergency room should be our last resort, not our first choice. Although it may seem more expensive to see a doctor on a regular basis than just when something is wrong, it generally ends up being less expensive to have a regular doctor to turn to. Another consideration is that our overall health does impact our Migraines; and, as Migraineurs, we're at increased risk for stroke. So, working with our doctors to be as healthy as possible and reduce our modifiable risk factors for stroke will pay off in more ways than one.
There are several ways to save on medications, both with and without insurance coverage:
- A 90-day supply of a prescription medication generally costs less than a 30-day supply.
- Larger quantities of over-the-counter medications are generally priced lower than smaller quantities.
- Check your dosage. If you're taking multiple small doses of a medication per day, check with your doctor to see if you can take one larger dose or if there's a time-release version of the medication available. Example: your doctor might prescribe 40 mg of propranolol four times a day. You could ask if 160 mg of propranolol ER would be acceptable. If so, changing to it would be less expensive.
- Try generics. Not all generics work as well as brand name medications, but most do, so it's worth trying them. Some of them can save us a great deal of money.
- On brand name medications, check the company web sites for coupons and discount programs.
- On over-the-counter medications, try the store brands. Most of them work as well as the brand names, and the savings can be enormous.
Specialist care is another possible financial issue for those of us living with Migraine, cluster headaches, and other headache disorders. It's important to note what some of us learned the hard way — neurologists aren't necessarily Migraine and headache specialists, and Migraine and headache specialists aren't necessarily neurologists. There are specialists who treat nothing but headache disorders, participate in specific continuing education in the field, and truly understand Migraine and other headache disorders and how to treat us. It can seem expensive to seek treatment with these specialists, but is it really more expensive than going from uneducated doctor to uneducated doctor or living with failed medical care? I think not.
Some of us have to travel to see a specialist, so don't forget to allow for these expenses if you're budgeting or forecasting. Here are some tips for saving on travel:
- If you need to stay at a hotel, check with the doctor or clinic you're going to to see if they recommend or have special arrangements for patient rates with local hotels.
- If you're flying or even driving in and staying at a hotel, check with the doctor or clinic to see if they know of hotels that offer shuttle service that you can use to get to their offices. Even if you have a car at your disposal, sometimes the shuttle service is easier and less expensive than driving and parking.
- Check out hotel loyalty programs.
- If you're a AAA member, don't forget to check on AAA discounts on any of your travel expenses.
- Are you or your spouse 50 or over? If so, check out an AARP membership. It's just $16 per year, and the AARP rate on hotel rooms can usually save you that much on just one night at a hotel. They have other discounts that can come in handy while traveling too — restaurants, rental cars, and more.
Migraine, or any illness can cause us to have lots of unexpected expenses. Here are some that might or might not apply to you, but can be worth considering as you plan:
- child care
- housekeeping / maid service
- lawn care
- accounting / tax preparation
- household maintenance
- meals / meal preparation
The financial side of living with Migraine and other headache disorders will, unfortunately, never be easy. With some planning, sharing, and discussion, perhaps it can at least be a bit easier.
Now, it's your turn!
What have I missed?
What suggestions or solutions do you have?
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