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Asthma Health Center

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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...

The 2005 Health Costs Survey bears this out. The researchers found that 44% of all people with asthma tried to save cash by not taking their medicine or skipping doctor's visits.

"I see people with asthma rationing their medicines all the time," says Edelman.

But while conserving makes sense in other parts of your life -- like lowering your thermostat to save on heating bills -- it doesn't work with asthma treatment. For people with moderate to severe asthma, daily medications are the bedrock of treatment. If you only treat flare-ups, your asthma is likely to get worse. A passive approach, in which you wait for things to worsen, will lead to greater long-term costs.

"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.

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