While potassium is an essential nutrient, too much can be a bad thing for your health. High potassium levels can lead to a condition called hyperkalemia.

Hyperkalemia may be due to conditions like chronic kidney disease or heart failure, dietary intake, medications like beta-blockers, or a combination of these factors.

Working with your doctor can help you determine the complex factors and develop a treatment plan.

While treatment is necessary, the complexities surrounding hyperkalemia treatment can also come with a high cost.

In one retrospective analysis of nearly 80,000 people, researchers found that those with hyperkalemia incurred $4,128 higher healthcare costs in 30 days versus a control group. The average annual costs were also $31,844 — about $16,000 higher than the control group.

Hyperkalemia is considered a life threatening condition, with treatment essential in preventing further complications.

Read on to learn more about how to reduce the costs of your treatment while getting the essential care you need for this condition.

You should see your doctor regularly for follow-up appointments and blood testing for your potassium levels, but you don’t necessarily need to see them in person if you have questions or if you’re experiencing a non-emergency medical issue.

Depending on your doctor and your insurance company, you may be able to reduce the number of times you have to see your doctor in person with one or more of the following options:

  • Call your doctor’s nurse line for questions and for prescription refills.
  • Request a virtual or telehealth appointment with your doctor — these are often less expensive than in-person visits.
  • If you have an electronic patient portal, send a message directly to your healthcare professional.
  • Call your insurance company to see if they offer virtual or telehealth consultations. Some companies have a network of doctors that address non-emergencies in between visits with your primary care doctor.

Depending on the severity of your hyperkalemia, you may need to see a specialist, such as a hematologist or a nephrologist.

Every insurance plan has a network of providers whose services they’ll cover, but they won’t cover specialists who are considered out of network. If your doctor refers you to a specialist, check with your insurance company to make sure that they’re in-network.

If a particular specialist is out of network, you can get a list of medical professionals from your insurance that you can also double-check with your referring doctor.

In some cases, you may decide to see an out-of-network specialist. Talk with the billing office ahead of time — they may be able to offer you a less expensive rate.

Treatment for hyperkalemia may consist of diuretics to help remove excess potassium via urine, as well as potassium binding medications that remove excess potassium from your bowels.

If your doctor has prescribed medications to help treat your hyperkalemia, consider the following ways you may be able to reduce the related costs:

  • Ask for a generic form of the medication. Your doctor may make a note of this on the original prescription.
  • Compare prices through apps, such as GoodRx. While these typically can’t be combined with medical insurance, sometimes the prices end up being less expensive.
  • Check your insurance company’s formulary. You can check the formulary (a list of medications they cover) ahead of time to see which types of hyperkalemia medications are covered so you can discuss these options with your doctor.
  • Consider additional assistance programs. Programs such as Medicare Part D or a State Pharmaceutical Assistance Program (SPAP) may help you determine whether you qualify for extra prescription drug benefits.

If lab tests show you have too much potassium in your blood, your doctor will likely recommend a low potassium diet.

While a dietitian can help you determine which foods to eat on this type of diet, taking their recommendations into account while meal planning on your own may help manage your condition.

Managing your dietary intake may help to reduce doctor visits and medication needs, thereby reducing costs.

As a rule of thumb, you’ll want to significantly limit the number of high potassium foods you eat or avoid them altogether. Examples include:

  • oranges and orange juice
  • bananas
  • potatoes
  • tomatoes and tomato products
  • dairy products
  • beans and legumes

Check out this comprehensive list of both high and low potassium foods to discuss with your doctor or dietitian as you form an eating plan that will support your condition.

New medications and other treatment options are continuously being researched for hyperkalemia, and some researchers need participants to help.

By enrolling in a clinical trial, you’ll likely receive treatment at little to no cost during the duration of the trial.

If you’re interested in participating, see the current list of hyperkalemia clinical trials from the National Institutes of Health, and talk with your doctor about your eligibility.

While there are several causes of hyperkalemia, the most common are kidney disease, diabetes, and Addison’s disease.

Additionally, research shows that having certain comorbidities, such as high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes, could result in a higher risk for hospitalization. This can lead to additional costs, which can last long after you have left the hospital.

You may be able to help reduce your blood potassium levels by treating certain comorbidities. One example is to treat poorly managed diabetes.

If your hyperkalemia is not caused by diet alone, talk with your doctor about ways you can help manage the underlying causes.

Hyperkalemia is a serious condition that requires immediate treatment to prevent life threatening complications. However, treating high potassium can also lead to unexpected high costs.

With a few steps, you may be able to reduce some of the costs associated with your treatment. Talk with your doctor about the above ways and any additional suggestions they may have on ways you may be able to save on your high potassium treatment.