Serious Chronic Illness Diagnosis
Tips to help seniors afford and manage their critical medical treatments
Being diagnosed with a serious chronic illness like diabetes, heart disease or multiple sclerosis is not only life-changing, it’s also complicated. Just figuring out how to pay for your prescribed medications, making sure your prescriptions are filled and available when you need them and remembering what medications to take and when is almost a full-time job. Thankfully, as more and more seniors embrace technology, there are new digital tools and resources available to help them manage their healthcare costs and live healthier lives.
Dan Klein, president and chief executive officer of the Patient Access Network (PAN) Foundation, the largest independent charitable organization dedicated to helping people pay out-of-pocket costs for prescribed treatments, offers four tips to help seniors access the treatments they need and effectively control and manage a serious illness.
1. Have a conversation with your healthcare provider about different treatment options and what you can afford.
Speaking with your health-care provider about treatment options and costs should be one of the first things you do after being diagnosed with a chronic illness. He or she can help answer questions and concerns you are likely to have about your diagnosis, treatment and prognosis. Also, as part of this conversation, you shouldn’t hesitate to ask about the out-of-pocket costs associated with your prescribed medications and to have a frank discussion about your ability to afford the treatment. Your health-care provider may be able to direct you to resources that can help you pay for treatment. Write down your list of questions, and consider asking your spouse, partner, relative or friend to go to the appointment with you.
2. Determine how you will afford your medications.
With rising deductibles, premiums, copays and co-insurance, the inability to pay for critical medical treatment is a growing problem for people with Medicare. There may be assistance available if you cannot afford the out-of-pocket costs for your prescription medications.
• You should review your current Medicare prescription drug plan and make sure that it meets your health and financial needs. There may be other plans that will help you better manage your out-of-pocket drug costs. Visit https://www.medicare.gov/find-a-plan/ to see what options are available to you.
• Check if you are eligible for Medicare assistance programs – like the Low- Income Subsidy Program, also known as Extra Help – that can significantly lower your out-of-pocket costs. To learn more about the LIS program, visit https://www.ssa.gov/benefits/medicare/prescriptionhelp/.
• Sign up for FundFinder, a free web-based app developed by the PAN Foundation, that can help you find financial assistance from charitable foundations for your prescription medications. Monitoring the status of disease funds across different charities can be challenging and timeconsuming. FundFinder delivers instant notifications via text or email when assistance from disease funds that you follow may be available at any charitable foundation.
3. Make sure you have the medications you need.
Don’t let an empty pill bottle be your refill reminder. Many insurance companies offer mail-order or specialty pharmacy benefits that can help you save money and time by having a three-month supply of your medication delivered directly to your home. And you can usually ask your mail order or specialty pharmacy to send you automatic refill reminders by phone, text or email, or through a mobile app.
4. Make sure you take your medications as prescribed.
If you find it hard to keep track of what pills to take and when, you’re not alone. Studies have shown that about 50 percent of medications for chronic diseases are not taken as prescribed. But to get maximum benefit from your medications and improve your health outcomes, it is critical to take your medications exactly as prescribed. Thankfully, there are free pill reminder apps, such as Medisafe Pill & Med Reminder.
One of the simplest tools to help you manage your treatment requires no technology at all. A pill organizer box can help you keep track of complicated medication schedules and reduce the risk of missing a dose or doses. Vibrating pill boxes incorporate a daily pill timer and can be especially useful for those who are hard of hearing.
Living with an illness is stressful enough without the added worries about how to afford and manage costly and complex medications. You can learn more about patient assistance charities like PAN and the ways you can manage your chronic illness at panfoundation.org.