9 Money-Saving Tips for People with Psoriasis and No Health Insurance
Medically reviewed by Allison Truong, M.D.
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One of the unfortunate truths about having a chronic illness in America is that paying for treatment can be incredibly expensive—especially if you don’t have health insurance. You know you need to keep your condition under control, and you deserve to live your life free from the discomfort and frustration that untreated psoriasis may cause. But it can be overwhelming trying to figure out just where the money to pay for all the treatments will come from. Thankfully, there are options available.
Find a Free Clinic
Dermatologists want to help patients. They’re aware of the challenges uninsured patients face and have options available for overcoming those challenges. And so, many dermatologists volunteer their time to work at local free clinics. These clinics treat patients who have no health insurance and often will help patients apply for health insurance if they meet certain financial qualifications. Some of these free clinics also perform skin biopsies and have laboratories and in-house pharmacies making it easy for patients to get all the necessary diagnostic tests and medications before they leave the office.
These free clinics are not always advertised but they are out there, often near academic medical centers. There are several online databases you can search to find one, including The National Association of Free & Charitable Clinics, PhRMA’s Medicine Assistance Tool, HRSA’s Find a Health Center tool, and NeedyMeds.org.
Utilize Cash Pay Discounts
Many doctors’ offices offer discounted cash or credit payments for a consultation and/or follow-up visits. You can call ahead and ask how your specific situation may be handled.
“At our clinic, we offer a cash pay discount and really try to work with a patient to make sure we can care for them in a way that works for them,” says Scott Paviol, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist at Paviol Dermatology in Charlotte, North Carolina. “We also have payment plan options, so we try our best to let people know that we are here for them.”
Dermatologist Chesahna Kindred, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist at Kindred Hair and Skin Center in Columbia, Maryland, says clinics where insurance is not accepted are the clinics people without insurance should seek out. These clinics are often the most willing to work with patients on rates and payment plans.
Consider Virtual Visits
You can also ask about swapping in-person visits for video or telephone visits, says Radha Mikkilineni, M.D., a dermatologist in New York City, which may cost less and save you from taking time off work or paying for transportation and parking. During the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly every dermatology clinic has this option available for patients, so it’s easier than ever to switch to virtual visits.
“Virtual visits with your dermatologist can vastly improve compliance with treatment,” says Mikkilineni. Better treatment compliance—meaning, following your doctor’s instructions completely—tends to lead to faster and better improvement in psoriasis, which can decrease cost in the long run.
Look for Prescription Coupons and Samples
Psoriasis medications can get pricey, but you may be able to get help in paying for them. It’s important to ask, because often, your doctor’s office can help.
“We have a staff member whose entire job is to work with our patients through the prescription assistance process,” Paviol says. “It is quite complex and ever-changing, which is why we felt it was important to have a staff member dedicated to helping our patients through this process.”
Kindred says that drug manufacturers often have online coupons. Even better, dermatologists often have samples that patients can try before purchasing the medication.
“This way, if a patient finds that the medication is not effective, funds were not wasted,” Kindred says. You may ask for samples if you simply can’t afford your next prescription, she says. However, sometimes, the samples may be very small, and may only last you a few days, which may not be enough time to determine if the treatment is successful or not.
Compare Pharmacy Prices
When you do find a prescription medication that works for you, compare prices at different pharmacies. GoodRX is a great resource for patients without medical insurance. Once you get a prescription from your doctor, you can search prices for that exact prescription at nearby pharmacies. You can download the coupons directly from the site, and bring them to the pharmacy you choose. You can also use the site to get discounts and to comparison shop when you do have health insurance.
“Big-box pharmacies, such as Walgreens and CVS, also provide ways to save through store memberships,” Kindred says. You may also check the prices at online pharmacies, which sometimes charge lower prices than brick-and-mortar stores.
Ask About Similar, Cheaper Options
If you’re concerned about cost, mention this to your doctor when discussing treatment options. Price may factor into your decision. There could be a generic or bio-similar alternative that would be a better fit for your budget.
“Many medications, both systemic and topical, have low-cost alternatives,” says Mikkilineni. “For instance, oral methotrexate is extremely affordable and works exceedingly well for extensive psoriasis.”
This is in contrast to many of the newer biologic drugs that can be very costly and may require insurance approval before they’re prescribed.
You can also ask your doctor about compound medications, which are custom-mixed for the patient. “Compounded prescription medications are often less expensive than branded topical products,” says Mikkilineni. You’ll have to have it filled at a compounding pharmacy, but thankfully, specialty pharmacies also tend to offer low pricing for patients, Kindred says.
Explore OTC Treatments
If none of those options work for you, Mikkilineni says you can talk to your doctor about trying to treat your condition without expensive prescriptions. “There are numerous over-the-counter and generic topical prescriptions that can be used,” she says.
But you’re not going to get the best results if you go it alone. Seeing a doctor, getting a diagnosis, and getting personalized recommendations should always be your first steps.
“The key is having appropriate guidance on how to use these medications to maximize effectiveness,” says Mikkilineni.
Make Healthy Lifestyle Changes
While medical treatment under the care of a board-certified dermatologist is often necessary to get psoriasis under control, Mikkilineni says patients can take some extra steps toward improving their condition on their own.
“Lifestyle changes can be low cost but result in a high impact on reducing the burden of disease,” she says, suggesting following an anti-inflammatory diet and eating plenty of micro- and macronutrients and phytonutrients.
Quitting smoking and reducing alcohol intake are also low-cost lifestyle modifications that can reduce psoriasis symptoms, she says. If you need some help, look into public health services designed for people without health insurance.
Apply for Assistance
If you qualify, you may also apply for federal or state programs, such as Medicare and patient assistance programs, which can help cover costs associated with appointments and medications.
In most cases, you can start with your state assistance office to see what options might be available to you. If you do apply for assistance, and if you’re approved, you can then start looking for doctors who will accept that insurance.
Remember: People with psoriasis patients tend to have comorbidities—additional health concerns beyond skin disease. It’s important to also see a primary care doctor for an annual physical exam. So, having no health insurance really isn’t the best long-term option.
The one thing Paviol doesn’t want to see is people avoiding the doctor because they don’t know how they’ll pay for treatment. “I've found that there is always a way to find some treatment plan that works. You may just have to be flexible,” he says. “There is always a way to get help. Sometimes, you just need to find the right people to advocate for you.”
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