Hepatitis C is a viral infection that attacks the liver. It leads to inflammation and can cause complications like cirrhosis, liver damage, and liver cancer.
Treatment for hepatitis C can reduce your viral load and help the virus get to an undetectable level. At this point, you’re considered cured.
While it’s possible to cure the infection, hepatitis C treatment comes at a price. It lasts from 8 to 12 weeks and can costs thousands of dollars.
In fact, the drug sofosbuvir — which is commonly used with other antivirals to treat hepatitis C — can cost
Private health insurance and federal programs, like Medicaid and Medicare, can help pay some of the cost — but they don’t pay everything. Some insurance companies may even refuse to pay for certain treatments.
If you need help with hepatitis C expenses, here’s what you can do to manage high costs.
Some people may receive a medical bill and pay it without questioning the charges. But medical billing errors are common, so it’s important to thoroughly review these bills for accuracy.
Some medical bills are also vague and don’t provide much information.
They’ll include the total amount you owe but might not provide details about specific medications, tests, and other services. This lack of transparency can be dangerous because you could unknowingly pay more than you actually owe.
In this scenario, it’s important to always ask for an itemized breakdown of your medical charges. This way, you can see exactly what the health professional or facility charged for each service.
Getting an itemized bill is also important to check that you haven’t accidentally been billed twice for a test, medication, or service.
You may also find charges for services you never received or get charged for a service due to an incorrect billing code. Always speak up and ask about any charges you don’t understand.
The cost of hepatitis C treatment adds up quickly. In addition to the cost of medications, you may also need to pay for:
- follow-up appointments
- other tests like biopsies and MRI scans
Plus, if you experience complications like liver damage, you may need a liver transplant.
So what do you do when you receive a medical bill you can’t afford? If you don’t have the resources to pay expenses related to hepatitis C treatment, you have a few options:
1. Make a payment plan
Many doctors, hospitals, and other healthcare professionals allow payment plans for medical bills. You can work out a payment schedule with the facility’s billing department, and they’ll often break up your balance into small, manageable payments.
Typically, you’ll pay no interest when you set up a payment plan. Your minimum payment, though, will depend on how much you owe and the length of the payment term.
The downside of a payment plan is that some healthcare facilities don’t offer extended terms, so you might have to pay the full balance over 6 to 12 months. This can result in high monthly payments, depending on what you owe.
2. Credit cards
Unfortunately, some medical professionals and facilities don’t accept payment plans. In this situation, you may be tempted to use a personal credit card.
However, consider your credit card’s interest rate before using this payment method.
You should only use a credit card with a low interest rate — ideally zero — and only if you can pay off the balance within a few months.
If you’re using a zero-rate credit card, make sure you pay the balance in full during the promotional rate period, before your standard annual percentage rate kicks in.
Another alternative is applying for a medical credit card.
These are only for paying eligible medical and dental expenses. They often have an introductory interest-free period of 6 to 12 months. This is an option when you’re able to pay off the balance within this time frame.
3. Negotiate your costs
If you can’t afford your hepatitis C treatment, you can also work directly with your healthcare professional to negotiate your costs. Some might forgive a percentage of your bill if you pay the lower amount in one lump sum.
You can also work with a medical bill advocate who will negotiate charges on your behalf.
These individuals know medical billing codes and the average cost of certain procedures. They’re also trained to recognize errors as they comb through your medical bills.
You can find a medical bill advocate by searching through a website such as the AdvoConnection Directory.
4. Apply for a personal loan
You can apply for a personal loan and consolidate all your medical expenses into one bill. Personal loans for medical costs can be as low as $1,000 or as much as several thousands of dollars.
Before getting a loan, shop around and get quotes from at least three financial institutions. You should compare:
- loan fees
- repayment terms
Apply for a personal loan only if you have good credit to get a low interest rate and an affordable payment.
Sometimes, you can incur debt when receiving treatment for hepatitis C and other conditions. In fact, high medical bills cause many people to file personal bankruptcy.
However, there are several ways you can protect your finances to avoid this, including:
1. Stay within your insurer’s network
Using doctors, labs, pharmacies, and other medical facilities outside your insurance provider’s network will result in paying more for services.
If your health insurance is a Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) or Health Maintenance Organization (HMO), confirm that doctors and facilities are in network before scheduling appointments.
2. Understand your plan benefits
Never assume that your health insurance provider will pay for everything. Make sure you understand your plan’s benefits, including your copays and deductibles.
Talk with your insurance provider to see which hepatitis C drugs it covers — and doesn’t cover. Share this information with your doctor when discussing cost-effective treatments.
3. Set up a health savings account (HSA)
Look into opening an HSA if you have a high-deductible health plan. You and your employer can contribute money to this account.
It will grow tax-free, and you can withdraw money from the account tax-free to pay for qualified medical expenses.
4. Ask about generic medications
Ask your doctor about generic medications to treat hepatitis C. These medications are effective at reducing inflammation and viral load, and they’re typically more affordable.
5. Compare costs
Costs for services, procedures, and tests can vary from facility to facility.
Another way to save money is to contact multiple facilities in your provider’s network and inquire about costs for specific services.
Schedule visits, procedures, and tests with facilities that charge less.
6. Look into patient assistance programs
You may also want to consider looking into different types of patient assistance programs.
These programs are typically sponsored by drug companies and help provide eligible individuals with access to treatments for little or no cost. Nonprofit organizations may also offer assistance paying for some treatment expenses.
For example, the American Liver Foundation has a list of various assistance programs that can help with the cost of hepatitis C treatment.
Hepatitis C treatments can reduce your viral load and put you into remission. But hepatitis C treatment is costly, and some people experience financial hardship when paying for it.
Being proactive can help you manage these expenses. Always review your medical bills, consider alternative payment solutions, and compare costs to save money.