Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder and is the third most common type of arthritis behind osteoarthritis and gout. In the U.S., an estimated 1.3 million Americans suffer from RA.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Americans who had any form of arthritis suffered $303.5 billion in losses that were attributable to their diseases. People who are financially disadvantaged could have a significantly more difficult time treating RA because of a lack of medical coverage or other financial assistance.
Increased Depression for Low-Income RA Patients
In addition to the increased medical costs of treating rheumatoid arthritis and income losses from the disease, low-income RA patients have a higher risk of suffering from depression. WebMD reports that a study that was conducted by researchers at the University of California found a link between RA diagnoses and depression among low-income people who were diagnosed with the disease.
The researchers reviewed data from 824 clinic and public hospital visits that were made by 466 people who were diagnosed with RA. They found that low-income patients who visited public hospital clinics were more likely to have co-occurring diagnoses of depression. Low-income patients were also more likely to score highly on depression tests than patients who visited university medical centers for treatment. The lower-income patients with RA also were likelier to have more active symptoms of the disease and to have higher disability scores.
Depression can add to the costs of treating RA for a couple of reasons. Patients who have depression along with rheumatoid arthritis may have additional costs to treat their mental health disorder on top of the costs of treating their RA. Depression may also increase the likelihood of people experiencing more symptoms that need to be treated. Since low-income people who have both RA and depression also have higher disability scores, they may be less likely to work.
Where Can I Get Financial Help?
Medicaid and Medicare may help to pay the costs of care for people who are eligible for these programs. However, Medicaid has stringent income and asset limits to qualify. Medicare is available to people who are ages 65 or older as well as those who are disabled under the SSDI rules and also receive SSDI.
Fortunately, if people are not eligible for these two programs and are uninsured, there are some other programs that might help to pay for the costs of such things as medication and surgery for low-income RA patients.
General Prescription Assistance
There are several general prescription assistance programs that are available for uninsured low-income patients who are diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. These programs allocate funds according to different diagnoses.
The Assistance Fund is a charitable organization that provides copay assistance for a variety of different serious and chronic conditions. The conditions that are covered by the Assistance Fund vary, so people are encouraged to check back from time to time to see if their disease is on the list. Currently, the Assistance Fund is providing a copay assistance program for people who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis but are unable to pay their copays for their medications.
A program that is offered by the National Council on Aging, Benefits Checkup allows people to check their states to find assistance programs in many different areas, including both private and government programs. People can simply enter their zip codes to get an initial listing of benefits programs in their areas.
Good Days is another general prescription assistance program that assists with a variety of different diseases. However, enrollment is not currently open for people who have rheumatoid arthritis. People can check back to see if RA is added.
The Partnership for Prescription Assistance is a free service offered by a consortium of more than 2,500 drug manufacturers to provide people with help to fill the prescriptions that they cannot afford. Through the program, people may be able to get their prescription medications for free directly from the drug maker if they do not have prescription coverage.
Private Prescription Assistance
In addition to general prescription assistance, there is also an organization that offers private prescription assistance. This program is called the Patient Access Network Foundation. It helps by paying the out-of-pocket costs that people with RA face for treating their diseases. The maximum allocation each year for RA is up to $3,800.
Joint Surgery Assistance
There is one organization that offers free hip and knee replacement surgery to RA patients in more than 20 states. This organization is called Operation Walk USA. It schedules surgeries each year over a four-day period at locations across the U.S. To be eligible, patients must be 18 years old or older, have no insurance, and have incomes that are within 300 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. People are able to submit applications online to participate.
People who are diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and who have low incomes may be able to find assistance to help to pay for their medical care costs. It is a good idea for RA patients to conduct research online to learn about these programs and others that might be available to them instead of forgoing treatment.