Eczema, also called atopic dermatitis, causes the skin to be dry and itchy and often affects babies and young children.

For caregivers of children with eczema, it can be difficult to manage the out-of-pocket costs and expenses that come with an eczema treatment journey. Many of these costs are directly linked to ongoing treatment of the condition.

There are a number of ways to manage spending for a child’s eczema treatment needs, including medication variates, health insurance coverage, state assistance programs, and building the right care team to keep eczema under control.

A 2022 study found that it’s more expensive to care for a child with eczema than it is to have the condition as an adult. Out-of-pocket expenses for caregivers to children with eczema averaged $860 per year, compared to $500 for adults with eczema.

Caregivers were also more likely to spend over $1,000 per year when compared to adults with eczema.

The expenses fell into several categories:

  • Healthcare team: Insurance deductibles, prescriptions, lab tests, mental health services, hospitalization
  • Nonprescription health products: Moisturizers, anti-itch medicines, hygiene products, supplements, bandages, pain relievers
  • Complementary approaches: Specialized clothing and bedding, special cleaning products

Caregivers also had greater expenses for emergency room visits than adults with eczema.

Your prescription or over-the-counter medicines may have a generic version that costs less. Generic drugs are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and must work the same as the brand name version.

Ask your doctor or pharmacist whether there’s a generic alternative. You may also want to ask about fillers and non-active ingredients since they may cause irritation in a child with eczema.

Your insurance may not cover the cost of a medication prescribed by your child’s doctor or may only cover part of the cost. Check your insurance plan’s list of approved drugs, also called a formulary.

You may want to ask your doctor to switch to a similar medication that is covered. For example, your plan may cover a generic drug but not the brand name.

It may also be possible to get a prescription for an over-the-counter medication that your plan does cover. Even if you don’t need a doctor’s prescription, having one may help to cover the cost using your insurance plan.

Review your health insurance coverage

Caregivers of kids with eczema have greater costs for hospitalization and emergency room visits than adults. The authors of the 2022 study mentioned above said that this indicates that childhood eczema isn’t under control and that caregivers don’t have enough access to outpatient care.

It may be worthwhile to review your health insurance coverage to see whether you have the right plan to cover your child’s eczema costs. That may include appropriate outpatient care.

You may also want to check whether you qualify for “cost-sharing reductions.” When you sign up for a plan through the Health Insurance Marketplace, the system will tell you whether you qualify.

However, to get the cost-sharing benefits on out-of-pocket expenses, you must sign up for a silver plan.

Track your policy limits and renewal dates

Your health coverage has an out-of-pocket maximum that resets every policy year. After you have reached your maximum, the plan covers 100% of most of your covered benefits for the remainder of the year.

The out-of-pocket maximum depends on your plan, but it can’t go above a limit set by the government each year.

Keep a log of doctor’s visits and prescription renewals for the child’s eczema expenses. If you have reached your out-of-pocket maximum, it may be possible to get a prescription refill or see a healthcare professional at little or no cost to you before the plan resets.

There are numerous state government programs to help uninsured or underinsured people with prescription drug costs. Nonprofit organizations and drug companies also have assistance available.

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America has a list of many drug assistance programs across the United States, including some chain pharmacy savings programs for prescription medications.

Keeping a child’s eczema under control can help prevent extra trips to the doctor or the emergency room. Consider involving family members in eczema care to ensure consistency.

For example, if the child is staying over at a relative’s house, you may want to guide them on the child’s moisturizing routine.

Meet with the child’s teacher at the start of the school year to discuss eczema. In cases of severe eczema, the child may qualify for a 504 plan.

Many accommodations are possible in schools, such as doing activities that don’t worsen eczema and using materials that don’t cause pain or discomfort.

About 30% of kids with moderate to severe eczema have a food allergy. Managing the allergy goes hand-in-hand with eczema treatment.

Consider planning food shopping trips a week or two in advance to get the right foods at the cheapest prices. Compare grocery stores, watch for in-store sales, and sign up for rewards programs.

Caregivers of children with eczema can have a significant financial burden.

Ways to reduce out-of-pocket expenses include finding low cost and effective medicines, maximizing health insurance coverage, and involving teachers and family members in the consistent management of eczema to prevent flares.