Ways to Handle The Cost of Psoriasis Care

Psoriasis treatments can be very expensive. According to the National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF), one in three people with psoriasis have trouble paying for the cost of care. The issues range from having no health insurance to having health insurance with co-pays that are out of reach or no coverage for psoriasis treatments.

“There is no question that cost of treatment is a huge issue for many people with psoriasis,” says Colby Evans, MD, a dermatologist in Austin, Texas. “I would hope that no one sees their psoriasis go untreated because of the cost,” says Evans, who chairs the NPF’s National Phototherapy Copayment Task Force, which is working to help lower costs for patients.

Not only do frequent phototherapy treatments add up, but psoriasis medications can run into the thousands of dollars. A tube of topical psoriasis medications might cost between $500 and $600. And biologics, a relatively new class of treatment for psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, can run $15,000 to $20,000 or more a year.

Steps to Save on Psoriasis Treatment

Fortunately, there are ways you can manage the cost of your psoriasis treatments and lower your out-of-pocket expenses. Here’s how:

1. Ask your doctor to prescribe generics. Generics are the best way to save money, Evans says. They may not be as effective as some of the newer topical creams, but they still can be quite helpful. Check your health insurance policy because, in some cases, getting your prescriptions by mail order can be less expensive than getting them from the pharmacy.

2. Do your own light therapy. If you have a $50 co-pay for doctor’s office visits and you need light therapy three times a week, it can cost you $600 a month. However, you can buy a home therapy unit. “They’re more expensive as an initial investment,” Evans says, “but if you can do it at home, you can save gas and travel time and office co-pays.” If you're considering at-home treatment, discuss it with your doctor.

3. Apply for financial assistance. Anytime you’re struggling to get access to psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis medication, check out the NPF’s financial assistance resource center. The site lists many assistance programs for which you might qualify, notes Sarah Golomb, health and access coordinator at the NPF. Also, many drug manufacturers will provide biologics free to patients who show a need. Go to the manufacturer’s website to see what they offer. “The programs tend to be more encompassing than patients think,” says Evans. “You don’t have to be desperately poor to qualify. They may be helpful even for patients with middle-class incomes and may provide the medications at substantially reduced costs.”

4. Ask your doctor for samples. “Finding the right medication can be a long road,” Golomb says. “Ask your doctor how long before a treatment will prove to be effective or ineffective.” Knowing that will help you save money and time and prevent wear on your patience, she adds. Ask your doctor for samples before you invest in a 30- or 90-day supply. Also, pharmacy reps often leave coupons at the doctor’s office, which you can use to buy your medication.

5. Shop around. Pharmacy prices are more variable than people think, Evans says. “If you have a $20 co-pay regardless of the cost of the medication, it doesn’t matter where you go. But if you’re paying the full cost yourself, you might find there can be an enormous difference in the cost of a drug from pharmacy to pharmacy. Call around to local pharmacies and price the drug on reputable online pharmacies. You may find a substantial difference in costs.”

Speak Up About Psoriasis Costs

Some patients tend to be shy when it comes to talking about the cost of treatment with their doctor. They shouldn’t be, Evans says. “Maybe 20 or 30 years ago, doctors didn’t want to discuss costs. But that’s not the case today,” he stresses.

“Every dermatologist in America deals with the issues of cost. It’s not something that people should feel reserved about bringing up,” he says. “If it is an issue for you, you should bring it up with your doctor because they need to know. I don’t want you to leave my office and not get the treatment I prescribed because it’s too expensive.”

Doctors don’t know what every patient’s health insurance will and won’t cover. Every insurance company and every plan within that company can be different. Before you see your doctor, call your insurance company and go to your visit armed with a list of drugs for which you have no or a low co-pay. “If the one that is covered is not the one I would have prescribed but it will work, I need to know,” Evans says.

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