Eczema is a chronic inflammatory skin condition that causes dry skin, rashes, scaly patches, and itchiness. Symptoms can range from mild to severe, and it’s not uncommon for them to appear, disappear, and then reappear again.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), roughly 1 in 10 Americans have eczema.
Different topical treatments, over-the-counter medications, oral prescriptions, injectable prescriptions, and alternative therapies can relieve symptoms during a flare, but there’s no cure for eczema.
Many people use a combination of therapies to manage symptoms, and an eczema diagnosis can involve frequent appointments with a primary doctor, specialist, or both.
This can be a financial burden for many people. Typically combination treatments are needed to control eczema, which can lead to a significant financial investment due to the medications and medical visits required.
Here’s an idea of what you can expect to pay yearly for eczema treatments, as well as tips to help manage costs.
In this article, the terms eczema and atopic dermatitis are both used. While there are some distinctions between different types of eczema and dermatitis, the terms atopic dermatitis and eczema are often used interchangeably to describe chronic skin inflammation that occurs along with dry patches, itching, and sometimes sores.
The overall amount spent on eczema treatments each year can vary significantly from person to person. The actual cost depends on the severity of symptoms, how actively you’re treating symptoms, and the specific therapy.
It’s also impacted by your location, insurance coverage, and products used. Therefore, people with mild symptoms or in certain geographic areas might spend less compared to those with moderate or severe symptoms or those in areas with higher costs.
Those without insurance coverage or on certain plans may also spend considerably more.
But while out-of-pocket costs can vary, according to one survey of 1,118 people living with atopic dermatitis administered by the National Eczema Association (NEA) in 2019, 42 percent of Americans spend more than $1,000 per year to manage their atopic dermatitis.
The median out-of-pocket yearly cost was $600, and about 8.5 percent of survey participants reported spending $5,000 or more per year.
The survey factored in how much participants spent on copays and deductibles for both provider and hospital visits, and prescription and nonprescription medication. Prescription medications included immunosuppressants, biologics, and steroids.
Nonprescription medications and products included:
- allergy medications
- hygiene products
- itch relievers
- sleep aids
- household cleaning products
The survey also took into account complementary and alternative therapies like traditional Chinese medicine, yoga, and massage.
To measure the average yearly cost of treating atopic dermatitis, the survey asked participants about treatments they received over the previous 30 days.
According to the results, 94.3 percent of those surveyed spent up to $50 in the prior 30 days on nonprescription over-the-counter products (moisturizers, hydrocortisone, and other anti-itch products, allergy medication, bathing products, supplements, and sleep aids).
Some supplements might reduce inflammation and ease symptoms of eczema. These include vitamin D, turmeric, fish oil, and CBD oil. Some people also use sleep aids to cope with sleep issues caused by severe itching.
Few participants spent money on complementary and alternative therapies over the previous 30 days. Those who did spent up to $50 on specialized cleaning products, perhaps fragrance-free and dye-free products to lessen skin irritation.
About 31.2 percent spent more than $100 on copays and deductibles for provider visits, and about 33.9 percent paid more than $50 on prescription copays.
Keep in mind that cost is also impacted by insurance deductibles that must be met prior to coverage. People with higher deductibles will incur more out-of-pocket costs before qualifying for insurance coverage.
The financial impact, however, isn’t limited to the out-of-pocket cost of treatment for eczema. There may also be
Roughly 5.9 million workdays are lost each year due to eczema, reports the NEA. Likewise, “people living with eczema are more likely to take five or more days off from work each year.”
Having a child with eczema can also impact one’s income. Some parents reported lost work productivity due to the severity of their child’s eczema.
Eczema typically results in more doctor visits, urgent care visits, and hospitalizations in severe cases. These healthcare services aren’t without cost, and as a result, “about 17.6 percent of people living with eczema have delayed treatment due to concerns about costs.”
In addition, roughly 13.1 percent didn’t seek care altogether because of costs, and about 15.7 percent have been unable to fill their prescriptions due to cost.
Whether you’re insured or uninsured, here’s a look at ways to reduce the cost of managing eczema.
Apply for patient assistance programs (PAP)
If you can’t afford your treatment, you might qualify for free or low cost medication. Drug companies set up patient assistance programs, and each program sets its own rules.
Depending on the pharmaceutical company, you might qualify even with insurance. But you might need to meet hardship requirements. You can apply for assistance directly with the pharmaceutical company or drug manufacturer.
Apply at nonprofit organizations
Another option is getting financial help through a nonprofit organization, which might pay for some or all of your prescription drug costs. You can apply for programs like the PAN Foundation or NeedyMeds.
Understand your health coverage
You can also reduce your out-of-pocket expense for eczema by understanding how your insurance policy works. This includes knowing your out-of-pocket responsibility before scheduling appointments, as well as choosing in-network healthcare providers.
In-network providers have a contract with your insurance provider so that you’re able to pay lower rates.
Ask your dermatologist about drug coupons
Your dermatologist might have access to drug coupons to help lower your out-of-pocket expense. Keep in mind, you might be ineligible for these discounts if you have Medicare or Medicaid. If eligible, you’ll receive instant savings when buying certain prescription medications.
You may also be able to find discounts through Goodrx.com. Their discounts or rebates can be used whether or not you have insurance but they are only available for generic medications.
Ask your employer about an HSA or FSA
Speak with your company’s HR department to see if you can set up a health savings account (HSA) or a flexible spending account (FSA). If so, the money you put in this account can help cover some of your healthcare expenses.
These accounts differ, though. An HSA earns interest and can transfer to a new employer. But with an FSA, your employer owns the account and it doesn’t earn interest. The funds in an HSA also roll over each year, but you must use funds in an FSA within the calendar year.
Eczema is a chronic skin condition that can result in multiple primary care and specialist visits, several prescription medications, over-the-counter medications, and hypoallergenic home products to decrease flares, which often leads to a large financial burden.
Understanding how your insurance works and learning about assistance programs can help you get the most affordable care.