How To Manage Your Life (And Finances) When Dealing With COPD

Five financial tips for affording life with COPD

An illustrative collage showing colorful smoke laid over slices of money

Living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, is difficult and challenging, something that 16.4-million Americans know all too well. On top of that, millions more struggle with untreated COPD symptoms because they’ve yet to be diagnosed.

And for those with COPD, the stresses don’t stop with symptoms.

Studies suggest that financial stress is one of the most common sources of anxiety for COPD patients.[1] Medications and treatment are often expensive. And as patients age, their income may decrease while the cost of care stays the same or, in some cases, increases. Patients without full-time employment or health coverage feel this financial pain even more.

Even those with coverage may still find themselves dealing with high medical bills, which can include costs for equipment, prescriptions and treatment.

Our goal in this piece is to give useful tips for managing your financial situation while living with COPD.

The big problem with COPD medication

It’s pretty simple. It’s expensive.

Research America estimates the average annual cost of COPD medical treatments for an adult in the U.S. to be $3,210.[2]

Those aren’t the only financial hits for COPD patients either.[3]

A 2018 study showed working-age patients with COPD also experience indirect costs for things like hospitalizations and short-term disability days. Those indirect costs make up “at least 10 percent of the overall economic burden of COPD.”

“…[W]orking-age patients with COPD incur approximately twice the costs of patients without COPD,” the study found.

Add it all up, and it’s a high price for many Americans.

As patients get older, paying for medication and treatment becomes more difficult when considering social security income, retirement money, etc. What if it’s not there?

Treatment plans for COPD should take into consideration your financial situation.

Yes, COPD medication is life-saving for many patients and it’s necessary on a day-to-day basis. But out-of-pocket costs are consistently high and force many people into untenable financial stress.

How to save money on COPD medications

All right, let’s cut to the chase.

How can you cut costs for COPD medication when it seems like the price only goes on to increase? We’ve done the legwork and come up with money-saving choices for you covering a variety of situations.

• Tip 1: Go the generic route

This might be an obvious solution for some, but it’s one of the easiest to achieve.

When talking to your doctor about COPD treatment and medications, don’t forget to bring up the choice of generic medications. These medications are often less expensive and differ from their brand-name counterparts in name only.

What is the difference between brand-name and generic medications anyway? Read our guide, “Brand vs. Generic Prescriptions: What You Need to Know.”

• Tip 2: Speak up, start a conversation

When talking with our doctors, we often don’t bring up the cost of medications — even though it’s in our minds.

But doctors understand and know the financial implications of the drugs they’re prescribing, especially for a condition like COPD. And they want to help you afford your meds so you can get healthier.

Often your doctor can find a less expensive alternative or get a discount on the brand-name prescription.

Be open and honest, and let your doctor know where your financial limitations are. They want to get you the best medication and also be sensitive to your specific situation.

Want some help about how to talk to talk to your doctor about medication costs? Check out our guide, “How to Talk to Your Doctor About Prescription Costs.”

• Tip 3: Order online and save money

Your local pharmacy might have what you need, but they may not have the best price.

For instance, did you know prescription prices can be wildly different from one pharmacy to the next? And the price can even change daily?

This is where doing your homework can save you big time.

While some online pharmacies aren’t so trustworthy, plenty are accredited and verified. On the website, look for accreditation, such as the VIPPS logo, which signifies a Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Site.

Through online pharmacies, you can sometimes find less-expensive versions of prescribed COPD medications — and get them delivered to your door.

One thing to keep in mind, though.

If the price seems too good, it probably is. Beware of online pharmacy sites that advertise super-low prices.

• Tip 4: Find patient-assistance programs

Another helpful choice? Patient-assistance programs.

Patient-assistance programs are offered through most pharmaceutical companies, in addition to some states and non-profits.

While requirements vary, generally you need to be:

  • A U.S. citizen,
  • On a fixed income,
  • Classified as low income.

You also can’t have outside prescription coverage, like through an employer or a state or federal program.

Here are two great patient-assistance programs to start with:

Both are non-profit organizations that run comprehensive databases on free and discounted prescriptions. You can search each website by drug to find options near you.

Still another option is to search your medications through ScriptHero and compare local prices at nearby pharmacies.

“Often your doctor can find a less expensive alternative or get a discount on the brand name prescription.”

• Tip 5: Know before you go

If you’re like most people, you wouldn’t buy something online without making sure you’re getting the best deal.

Why should your medicine be any different?

Especially when the price of your meds can be wildly different from pharmacy to pharmacy — and even day to day.

Simply put, it pays to price-shop — even for your prescriptions.

There are no shortage of prescription-shopping tools and sites online, such as our very own ScriptHero.

Using these tools will help you compare prices at nearby participating pharmacies and can help you save money At the very least, you can find out the common price for your meds in your area and know that you’re not overpaying.

How much can you save? Get started price-shopping your COPD meds.

Learn More

Rob Mixer is a writer and content marketer based in Columbus, Ohio. He has nearly 10 years of experience in professional sports and advertising, with clients such as Root Insurance, Ashcroft, Club Car, The Athletic and more.

Carl Filer is a graphic designer and illustrator based in Columbus, Ohio. Carl has worked with brands such as Netflix, Ford, Hilton Hotels and more.

This article was last updated September 22, 2020

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