Lowering the Costs of Asthma Treatment
Asthma treatment has made great strides, but good care is costly. Here are ways to get some help.
The High Cost of Asthma continued...
"If you let your asthma get bad and have an attack, that's a really bad
thing," says Edelman. "You'll have to pay for the ER bills and make up
for the time you miss from work."
Among uninsured people with asthma, 52% say that they are not getting the
medical care they need. And people with low incomes report spending up to 10%
of their total annual earnings on asthma care.
Perhaps surprisingly, the very poor are not the worst off, since they may
qualify for public assistance.
"Medicaid is the best insurer now," Edelman tells WebMD. "So the
poorest people with asthma are often in the best shape."
People who have limited incomes but don't qualify for Medicaid face a
tougher situation. Many earn too much to get public assistance but work for
employers who offer little or no insurance. Some retired people with limited
incomes don't qualify for Medicaid because they have too much money in assets,
like a house, says Edelman.
Younger people who have just graduated from college are also vulnerable.
They lose their insurance they had from their school or parents, but don't yet
have a job that offers benefits.
However, the uninsured aren't the only ones in trouble. People with
insurance are feeling pinched, too.
"Even people who have insurance are having trouble affording the higher
and higher co-pays for medicines," says Edelman.
Safer Ways to Lower Drug Costs
Medications are the biggest expense for people with asthma, says Bernstein.
But there are ways of lowering your cost.
- Ask your health care provider and your pharmacist about taking generic
medicines instead of brand name drugs. Although there are a limited number of
generic asthma medicines available, they can be substantially cheaper, says
- If you have health insurance, look into mail order prescription plans,
recommends Bernstein. "You can sometimes save quite a bit of money with
mail order," Bernstein tells WebMD. "For instance, you might get three
prescriptions for the price of two."
- Edelman says that in some cases, using older and out-of-fashion medicines
may be a good idea. "When I have a patient who is in especially difficult
financial circumstances, I rely on drugs that many physicians no longer
use," Edelman says. He says that while dyphylline may have greater side
effects than newer drugs, it works well and is inexpensive. In some cases, he
also uses the oral corticosteroid prednisone. "It's a very good asthma drug
and it's very cheap," he says, "However, the side effects are
substantial if you use it for a long time."
- You could also ask your health care providers for free samples of
prescription drugs. While it is not a long-term solution, it could help you
make it through a particularly difficult stretch.