Managing Finances with RA

Lene Andersen | Nov 20th 2015 Apr 10th 2017

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Living with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) can be hard on your wallet. Medications are expensive, and so are doctor’s appointments and medical tests. All of it is necessary to live better with the disease, but it adds up and can become a real hardship. But there are ways of reducing the cost of RA.

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The Affordable Care Act

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) ensures that all Americans can get insurance, even with pre-existing conditions. Annual or life-time spending caps on medication are eliminated, and the annual deductible is a more reasonable amount. Also, the CLASS Act (Community Living Assistance Services and Supports Act) provides affordable long-term insurance for home-care services if you become disabled.

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What if you are not insured?

If you do not have insurance, you still have options. The Health Resources and Services Administration funds clinics that offer low-cost or free health care to people who are uninsured. Some of these also offer dental care. Many hospitals also provide free or low-cost care, depending on their particular mission. Other government programs may also help you find affordable care.

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Negotiate with your doctor

Doctors are aware that medical care and medication can be very expensive, so don’t hesitate to discuss it at your appointment. You may be able to negotiate with your doctor for a discount in the appointment fee if you pay upfront, and for them to only order tests when it is important. Your doctor may also be able to direct you towards other resources that can help you.

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Financial assistance for medication

Manufacturers of biologic medications offer financial assistance programs to help people with RA access the drugs that can make such a difference in their lives. You will be able to find information on such programs on the website for the medication. Pharmaceutical companies may also offer financial assistance for other types of medications. Talk to your pharmacist to learn more.

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Co-pay assistance and generic drugs

There are a number of independent, charitable organizations that offer assistance if you have trouble managing the co-pay amount for your medication. Drug manufacturers may also offer co-pay assistance cards. You can also talk to your doctor about prescribing a generic drug instead of the name brands to save money, although this is not a possible for Biologics.

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Flexible Spending Accounts

A Flexible Spending Account (FSA) is an opportunity offered by your employer to set aside money from every paycheck before taxes. The money will be put into a special account which can be used for almost any type of medical expense throughout the year. Check with your Human Resources Department, as not all employers provide FSAs.

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Mail-order medications

Many insurance companies offer coverage for mail-order pharmacies, which can save you a lot of money. It can take some time to get organized, though, so ask you doctor for a 30-day prescription that you fill at your local pharmacy, and another for 90 days filled through the mail-order pharmacy. You may also want to keep your important meds at your local pharmacy for better access.

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Comparison-shopping

Did you know that pharmacies may use a different markup? If you live in an area with several different pharmacies, shop around. Some pharmacies can mark up their drugs with as much as 800 percent! Costco and Walmart are especially known for having low prescription costs, but ask around in supermarkets and other pharmacies. Some may be willing to meet the price to keep your business.

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Reducing or eliminating debt

If your debt load is insurmountable, you have options. A consolidation loan can consolidate  a variety of debt into one loan that may be easier to repay. Debt negotiation can create an agreement by which you repay part of your debt. Declaring bankruptcy may also be an option. Get a professional to help you and remember there is no shame in declaring bankruptcy due to insurmountable medical costs.

NEXT: Tips for RA Hospital Stays
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