Managing ulcerative colitis (UC) can be expensive. To keep down the costs, it’s important to understand how your health insurance works. You may also qualify for financial assistance programs that can help minimize your costs.
UC is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that causes the lining of the colon to become inflamed and develop ulcers.
People with UC may require more frequent medical care to manage and minimize symptom flare-ups. The cost of this care can add up quickly.
Here’s what you need to know to manage your finances with UC.
Research suggests that people with IBD, including UC, can expect to pay three times the amount of healthcare costs as people without the condition and twice the annual out-of-pocket costs.
People with IBD pay roughly $22,987 per year in healthcare costs, compared to $6,956 for people without IBD. Out-of-pocket costs add up to around $2,213 for people with IBD and $979 for people without IBD.
High healthcare costs for UC are driven by a number of factors. These may include:
When it comes time to pay your healthcare bill, the following tips can help save you money.
Check your medical bills
Medical bills aren’t always correct.
It’s important to review every medical bill you get to ensure you’re not getting charged for services that:
- you didn’t receive
- were already paid by you or your insurer
- should’ve been billed to your insurer
Request an itemized bill and an itemization of all payments from your hospital or clinic. Be sure to save all medical paperwork you receive and cross-check it with your medical bills.
Also cross-check your medical bills with your insurance explanation of benefits. This comparison can help confirm if the amount on your medical bills is the same as the amount your insurance company says you owe.
If you lose your medical paperwork or need another copy, contact your doctor or healthcare professional to request your medical records. You can also contact your insurance company for an explanation of benefits if you don’t have one handy.
Keep in mind that you may receive a bill before your insurer has had a chance to pay their part. If you’re unsure whether or how much of the bill your insurance will cover, call your insurance provider.
Negotiate your costs
It may come as a surprise, but many healthcare professionals are open to negotiating costs.
Some healthcare professionals will give you a discount on your bill, often if you offer to immediately pay the balance in full. Consumer advocacy groups and attorneys can help you to negotiate your bill.
Other professionals might offer a payment plan to help you pay the bill in installments.
If you have a life situation that prevents you from paying your bill in full, be open and honest with your healthcare professional. They may be willing to lower your bill, especially if you’re an established patient with a good payment history.
If you can’t afford to pay your bill in full at the time of service, you may have other options to pay smaller and more manageable amounts of money over a longer time period.
Apply for a loan
A loan can help you manage the high healthcare costs of UC.
Traditional banks and online lenders can provide a medical loan. This special type of personal loan can be used specifically to pay for medical care.
Always carefully review the interest rate terms before signing a loan. Interest payments can add significant costs to your expenses. The rate you obtain will be calculated based on your credit history and credit score.
Use a credit card
You can pay UC-related medical bills later by putting the bill on a credit card.
Credit cards should be your last option. Credit cards charge high-interest rates, on average around 16 percent. Credit card bills can quickly mount the longer it takes you to pay off this debt.
In addition to managing the payment of your medical bills, you can also take steps to reduce medical and healthcare costs themselves. Here are some ideas to consider.
Understand your health insurance
Understanding your health insurance can go a long way in keeping costs down.
If a doctor isn’t in your network, you may get hit with high healthcare costs. Doctors who are out of network don’t have to agree to accept the rates guaranteed by your insurance.
Finding a healthcare professional in your network results in lower copays. You can check with your insurance provider to obtain a list of doctors in your network.
It’s important to take time to understand your benefits as well. You’ll want to thoroughly review your insurance plan to get a sense of which services are covered and which aren’t.
Apply for a premium tax credit
Some people who bought health insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplace may qualify for a premium tax credit. You can use this tax credit to lower your health insurance premium, or the amount of money you pay every month to have health insurance.
The amount of your premium tax credit will depend on the estimated household income that you list on your insurance application. To find out if you’re eligible and to apply, visit the website for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
Premium tax credits can be applied in part or in full to your monthly insurance premium payment.
Shopping around can save you a lot on your medical costs.
For starters, it’s a good idea to begin with your health insurance. Compare different plans and providers to find an option that works best for your budget and medical needs.
You can also shop around for drug options. Instead of name-brand drugs, you can consider receiving a generic version to help save on medical costs.
Look for patient assistance programs
Some pharmaceutical manufacturers offer patient assistance programs (PAPs).
PAPs provide financial assistance or product donations to low-income individuals who either don’t have health insurance or are underinsured and can’t afford their medication. It’s possible to receive discounted or free drugs if you qualify for a program.
You can find programs at the website for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation or by checking with your pharmacy.
Participate in a clinical trial
Participating in a clinical trial is a unique way to lower healthcare costs.
Not only will you be instrumental in developing new and improved therapies, but you may also receive medical treatment or drugs at no cost for your participation.
Talk with your doctor about whether clinical trials could be a good option for you, and if so, which ones. Every clinical trial has different eligibility criteria, which usually include:
- birth sex
- medical history
- current health status
Take care of yourself
Having flare-ups and other UC complications leads to a greater financial burden from expensive hospitalizations, more medications, time off of work, and even surgery.
Help keep your condition better controlled by:
- keeping a symptom journal
- eating a healthy diet and avoiding trigger foods
- prioritizing your mental health
- managing stress levels
- taking your medications as prescribed
Managing ulcerative colitis can be expensive. Understanding how your health insurance works and taking steps to lower your medical costs can help save you money.
There are numerous payment options to consider for paying medical bills. In addition, there are various resources like premium tax credits and patient assistance programs that can help you keep medical costs low and better manage your finances with UC.