Ulcerative Colitis: Tips for Managing Records, Finances, and Paperwork
When you're diagnosed with a chronic illness like ulcerative colitis (UC), you quickly start to realize there's more to it than just managing the symptoms of the disease. UC can bring planned and unexpected costs and paperwork. To help keep your stress levels low, here are HealthCentral’s best financial and paperwork tips and strategies to make the other side of UC management a little easier.
Open an HSA Account
An HSA, or health savings account, is a great way to help ease the financial burden of UC. HSA accounts let you add pretax dollars to the account so that you can use that money to help pay for prescriptions and other verified health-related purchases. For instance, if you know how much you'll spend on your prescriptions within a year, you can add that amount with pretax dollars to your HSA to spend on your prescriptions, saving money in the long run.
Use a Payment Plan
Sometimes, the unexpected can occur, and you don't have quite enough money to cover the cost of a colonoscopy or other emergency procedure. In this case, work with the hospital or medical agency to figure out a payment plan and schedule. This can help you tackle major costs without wiping out your savings or checking account. Make sure to keep a record of how much you're contributing each month.
Expect the Unexpected With an Emergency Fund
If you don't want to wind up in the "make payments" boat, you can create an emergency fund. Open an additional savings account at your bank, and either make a monthly contribution to it, or, if you have direct deposit, set aside an amount per paycheck to go directly into your savings account. That way, if you do have a flare or other unexpected issue, you have a balance to draw from. Make sure your contributions fit into your budget.
Check Out Prescription Assistance Programs
Many biologic prescriptions, like Entyvio, offer rebate programs or assistance programs that can help lower the cost of the biologic itself or other prescriptions. You can also check out Blink Health to see if their services cover your prescriptions. This can be a huge cost savings if you're on multiple medications or your insurance doesn't cover a medication prescribed by your gastroenterologist.
Consider New Insurance
Sometimes you might need to consider new insurance coverage in order to better manage your finances when it comes to your UC. If your current insurance provider doesn't cover your prescriptions, blood work, colonoscopies, or other procedures, it might be time to switch. If you're using a company-provided insurer, talk to your HR representative to see if there's a way for you to get better coverage. If you're unemployed, look into COBRA to see if you can get coverage until your disability benefits are approved, or you go back to work.
Create a Physical UC Folder
UC brings a lot of paperwork along with it. A great investment is an accordion folder. It doesn't cost much, but with these folders you can save all the documentation and paperwork related to your UC in an organized manner. Whether that's prescription receipts, test results, doctor recommendations, or other medical purchase information, you can keep all your UC records in one place. The added benefit? This can really help during tax season!
Participate in a PPO If You Make a Lot of Visits
Another insurance option is to partake in a PPO insurance program if you make a lot of office visits. PPOs can help reduce the cost of copays when you visit your specialists. If you have UC and see multiple specialists, consider a PPO and choose in-network providers. This can greatly reduce the cost of your visits, and you can potentially have a network of providers that can share your medical records with each other so they can stay informed.
Use a Budgeting App
A great way to prevent surprise costs is through a budget. If you've never created a budget before, using an app like Mint or EveryDollar can be a great way to help you get started. With your budget, you can see where your expected monthly costs are, where your money is going, and get a better idea on how much you need to save in your emergency fund. Mint and EveryDollar both sync with your bank account and any credit card accounts you might have and take a lot of the guesswork out of budgeting.
Manage Your Medical Records Online Through a Patient Portal
Most doctors keep your records electronically now, and quite a few employ the use of a patient portal. An online patient portal can help you manage all of your test results, correspondence with your care team, bills, and test requests all in one place. If your doctors use an online patient portal, take advantage of it. It's a great way to communicate with your doctor and keep a record of those conversations so you can better work on your treatment plan.
Choose Tools That Work for You
Managing all of the paperwork and bills that come with living with UC can be complex, but it's all about choosing tools that work for you. Everyone's UC management is going to look a little different. Some might have the flexibility to pursue other insurance options, and some might prefer to keep all their records electronically. Your plan is up to you, but know there are tools available to make your life easier.