Strategies to Afford Mental Health Treatment

APR. 28, 2020

By Jeremy Lee, PharmD, BCPS


For those with a mental health condition, there are many effective treatment methods, including counseling, medication and holistic therapies. However, the costs of treatment can quickly add up.
 
Despite these expenses, it’s even costlier to leave your condition untreated. It can also be debilitating. You may experience reduced productivity and motivation, which can hurt your job performance or career prospects. Additionally, untreated mental health conditions may lead to a hospital stay, which costs far more than any outpatient treatment method. 
 
So rather than risking both your mental health and your finances, it’s essential to seek treatment that is both effective and affordable to you.
 
Here are some strategies for making your treatment more affordable. 

Find a Sliding Scale Provider

Some therapists take into account your current financial situation and offer services on a sliding scale, which means you pay what you can afford based on your income. This only applies to out-of-pocket spending on your part, not a discount on your insurance copay. 
 
This option is especially helpful for those who are uninsured or underinsured. You can find sliding scale therapists in online directories like Psychology Today or the Anxiety and Depression Association of America’s Find a Therapist page

Try Online Therapy

Online therapy platforms may charge a lower fee than traditional therapists. For those with coverage, many insurance plans are now covering online therapy at the same rate as in-person. For those who are uninsured or underinsured, online therapy can be a less expensive alternative.
 
Additionally, online therapy can be conducted from the comfort of your home over video chat, text or phone call. This makes it convenient and easy to fit a therapy session into your schedule.

Be Open to Group Therapy

The one-on-one attention of individual therapy can be extremely beneficial, particularly in the early stages of treatment. However, group therapy is usually more affordable and can be effective as well. Consider switching from individual to group therapy, or trying a few group sessions each month to lower your costs.

Seek Counseling from a College or University Clinic

Many colleges train their graduate psychology students by offering low-cost therapy to the community. While students lack the experience of a licensed counselor, they will be supervised by an instructor. If you live near an educational institution, it’s worth looking into this option. You’ll be lowering your out-of-pocket costs and helping students gain valuable experience.

Ask Your Doctor or Psychiatrist if Pill Splitting is Right for You

Normally, ordering a higher dose of a drug doesn’t cost much more than ordering a lower dose in the same quantity. So if your doctor writes a prescription for a higher dose and instructs you to split the pills and take one half each day, you could get double the number of doses for almost the same price. 
 
Not all pills are able to be split. Still, it’s worth asking your doctor or psychiatrist to see if you could save money this way.

Compare Prices at Different Pharmacies

Prices can differ considerably between pharmacies. A Consumer Reports investigation found that pricing for the same combination of drugs varied widely across pharmacies, ranging from $66 to almost $900. 
 
It pays to comparison shop for your prescriptions. Calling every pharmacy to check the price is time-consuming, however, there are tools available to help automate the process. Search “drug price comparison” online, and you’ll find many different options. Simply type in the name of your drug and your zip code to find prices in your area.

Get a Prescription Discount Card

Prescription discount cards can help you save on your medications. Many of them are free and offer significant discounts on out-of-pocket drug costs. Keep in mind that these cards can’t be used in addition to your insurance. Still, it’s worth checking the discounted card price against your insurance copay to make sure you’re getting the best price. For those who are uninsured, a discount card can be an effective way to reduce drug expenses.

Ask Your Doctor or Psychiatrist for Samples

Drug manufacturers often provide samples of their medication to doctors and psychiatrists. When your health care provider prescribes a new drug, ask for samples. This allows you to try out the medication before committing to a full supply. That way, if you experience side effects or find the drug doesn’t effectively treat your symptoms, you can easily switch to a different medication without wasting money.
 
These strategies can be helpful in getting your treatment expenses under control. Above all, don’t skip treatment altogether. Doing so will cost you more in the long-run. Besides that, your mental health is worth so much more than money.
 
 
Jeremy Lee, PharmD, BCPS, currently serves as the Director of Drug Information for America’s Pharmacy, a prescription discount program accepted nationwide. Jeremy graduated from UCLA with a degree in biology and went on to receive his PharmD from the University of California, San Francisco. He has over 20 years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry.

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