Living with multiple sclerosis is not only hard physically and emotionally, but it’s also hard financially. The cost of multiple sclerosis is overwhelming. There’s the copays from the doctor’s appointments, the costs for lab tests, MRIs, and medications.
One recent article said that the costs for most disease-modifying therapies are greater than $70,000 per year. That’s insane!
And that’s just speaking to the conventional treatments.
If you’re reading this blog, you likely also have an interest in functional treatments or at least buying higher quality food and supplements as well as getting treatments like acupuncture and massage.
If that’s the case check out my podcast episode on How to Build Your Dream MS Wellness Team Without Breaking the Bank. That episode has tips on how to navigate more the out of pocket expenses for functional and holistic treatments. So give that episode a listen if you haven’t already.
Here, I want to talk more about ways to manage your overall budget and manage the cost of the conventional side of medicine.
Create a Budget
First step is to start a budget.
If you don’t already have a budget, now is the time to do it.
I know, I hate budgets too.
I am groaning with you.
But you need to get intentional with how you’re spending your money.
The goal here is not to make you feel stressed or overwhelmed in yet another area of your life. It’s designed to help you create a plan so you have better peace of mind about covering your expenses moving forward.
If the idea of this is already stressing you out, start small.
That’s the key to starting any big goal that you have. Break the first step down to something that feels so easy, there’s no excuse not to do it.
I mean super small like figuring out your login details to your online banking account.
Or googling the top 5 budgeting apps that you could download to your phone to create an automated budget.
Another great way to get started is to simply print out the previous month’s banking statement and just see where you spent your money.
You could even grab a couple highlighters and start categorizing them – house, groceries, entertainment and medical.
Then maybe you decide which area has a little extra to trim.
And try not to be discouraged if you can only trim $20 in your entire budget. That’s a start. And every dollar adds up in time.
And look, if the idea of this still feels like too much, see if you can connect with a financial planner who can help. There may even be free services at your local community center or church.
But the bottom line is you need to know where your money is being spent so you can make informed decisions about your medical expenses moving forward.
Now, let’s explore an avenue that can alleviate some of the financial strain.
Drug Manufacturers’ Assistance
Many pharmaceutical companies have patient assistance programs designed specifically for MS patients.
These programs are designed to provide medications at a reduced cost or sometimes even for free to those who qualify.
Anytime that you’re prescribed a new medication, always ask your doctor or pharmacist about any available patient assistance programs.
They often have the most up-to-date information or can guide you to the right resources.
Do You Qualify?
So you might be thinking, “Do I qualify for something like this?”
The eligibility criteria for these programs can vary. They might take into account factors such as your income, insurance coverage, and overall financial need. It’s worth noting that even if you have insurance, you might still qualify for some programs, especially if your insurance doesn’t cover the entirety of your medication costs.
Typically, applying for these programs involves filling out an application form detailing your financial situation.
I know even MORE paperwork – oh yay!
But this one could save you a lot of money so it’s worth it. Grab a cup of tea, put on your favorite playlist and start filling it out.
And just a heads up, your doctor might need to provide information as well, so just factor that into your timing as well.
One last thing to keep in mind about these programs is that they change.
A drug that’s full price today might get a discount tomorrow.
So, check in once in a while, especially if there’s a change in your meds or money situation.
Look I know these programs aren’t always easy, there’s red tape and they require effort on your end, but this could be the difference between you being able to afford the medication that you need, so it’s worth it.
And if you need to ask a family or friend to help you fill it out, do it!
People often want to help, but don’t know how to help. This is a great opportunity to receive support.
Set Up a Payment Plan
The other thing to keep in mind is that healthcare companies know that most people can’t pay off a large bill all at once.
If that’s the case, you can often arrange a payment plan. Once you know the total amount of the bill, you discuss with them what you can pay on a monthly basis and they arrange a payment plan with you.
You can reach out to the billing department of your doctor’s office, hospital or whomever you’re dealing with. They just want the bill to get paid, so as long as you communicate a plan with them, they’re often willing to work with you.
Leverage FSAs & HSAs
Another avenue to explore in managing MS-related expenses is the use of FSAs (Flexible Spending Accounts) and HSAs (Health Savings Accounts).
Personally, I have found these to be so helpful in managing medical expenses!
Understanding FSAs & HSAs
FSAs and HSAs are basically specialized accounts that allow you to set aside pre-tax money to cover health care costs that insurance might not fully cover.
It’s important to check your eligibility for these accounts. HSAs are often associated with high deductible health plans (HDHPs).
Whereas, FSAs are typically benefits that an employer provides.
If both are available to you, it’s worth comparing the benefits and limitations of each to determine which aligns best with your current medical and financial situation.
You can use the money in these accounts to cover not only doctor visits and medications but also services like physical therapy, certain over-the-counter products, and even some alternative treatments.
Roll Over or Use It Up?
One important rule to remember with these accounts is this: FSAs typically have a “use it or lose it” policy by the end of the year. HSAs, on the other hand, you can typically roll over year to year. That money’s yours to keep.
It’s important to know which you have so you can plan accordingly.
Personally, what I like best specifically about the FSA account is that you can allot a certain amount of money that you want to contribute for the year and that’s gradually deducted from your paycheck. And the money is now on a separate card just for medical expenses.
It just feels like easier budgeting to me.
Patients Getting Paid
Okay now I promised at the beginning of this episode that I would not only show you how to save money, but I would also show you how to MAKE money.
This might require a little out-of-the-box thinking, but let me start by telling you about my dear friend and fellow MS warrior, Kathy Reagan Young.
In short, she was working at the time that she was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. She soon realized that she couldn’t maintain both her job and her health.
Eventually she lost her job.
So her paycheck stopped coming in but her medical bills certainly didn’t stop coming.
She needed to figure out a way to generate an income from home, and in a way that she could manage her health.
Well, the road to figuring this out was bumpy, but in time she was able to replace her previous income with jobs that she was doing from home with a flexible schedule.
As many of us do, once we figure out the key to a problem, you want to then share it with other people too.
You want to help make the road a little easier for those coming alongside you.
She created a program called Patients Getting Paid.
It’s a membership program where she helps people with a chronic illness find ways to make money that offer flexible schedules so you can also take care of your health needs too.
Patients Getting Paid offers things such as
- A list of paid gigs – some as simple as surveys that you can get paid to simply complete.
- Monthly training on skills that you can learn and potentially market.
- Resources if you are looking to start your own business from home, she has a ton of training and resources to help you get a business off the ground.
If you’re looking to make some extra cash to help offset your bills, but need something that is flexible, check it out at patientsgettingpaid.com. And reach out to Kathy, she is such an incredible resource to the MS community.
Creative Ways to Make Money
It’s a great opportunity to think about a skill or a service that you have that can now be marketing maybe a slightly different way.
For example, if you used to work in the corporate world or at an agency as a designer, maybe you consider doing some freelance work on a website like Upwork or Fiverr.
If you were a teacher, maybe you offer some online tutoring.
If you’ve had a hobby for crafting or painting, maybe this is the time to consider selling your items on a platform like Etsy.
And with all the people starting online businesses these days, there’s a big demand for virtual assistants.
My point is that whether you’re trying to replace your income or simply just have a little side gig to offset some of your medical expenses, there are a lot of creative and out-of-the-box options for you to consider.
I Want to Hear From You!
Now I want to hear from you. What’s your best tip for managing the medical expenses of multiple sclerosis? Share in the comments below.