A newly diagnosed Lyme patient remarked to me recently that it seems like you have to be rich to get better. That’s especially true for Lyme, but for a lot of folks with chronic illnesses or complex health challenges, many of the most helpful healing modalities are not covered by insurance. But even if you’re sticking with practitioners who are covered by insurance, the out-of-pocket costs can really add up. That said, there are ways to get well without spending beaucoup bucks. Also, sometimes you can just get lucky. I’m not sure how my doctor managed it, but I was able to get 21 months of oral antibiotics covered by insurance on two different insurance plans, one of which was the state insurance we have here in Massachusetts. Nothing fancy. The most I ever had to pay for antibiotics was $60 a month, and that only happened a couple times when I had to get Tetracycline compounded. Everything else was less than $10 a month. I was fortunate in that regard but I still needed to find ways to afford all the wellness treatments I wanted to pursue. Since I’ve been on my healing journey for 15 years and without a regular income for several of those years, I had some time to learn a few things about cost saving.

Here are some of my favorite tricks for saving money and keeping costs down:

  • Get really clear on what your insurance does cover. There are plans that cover acupuncture, chiropractic, physical therapy, etc., and if you are not beholden to a particular insurance through your employer, you might shop for one that offers coverage for the visits you need the most. If there is a practitioner that you really love, look for insurance that they take so it’s easier for you to see them.

  • Connect with a support group and/or find other people in your community with your condition or similar conditions. This is the best way to find all the best deals on practitioners, products, and services. Real people can tell you everything the internet cannot. Also, there are a lot of practitioners who fly under the radar to protect themselves, and you really need to know a gal who knows a gal to find out about them.

  • Seek out practitioners with sliding scales. A lot of sick people are broke and healers know that. I have found herbalists, coaches, and acupuncturists with sliding scales.

  • Choose “community” options for acupuncture, chiropractic, and other treatments whenever possible. I was able to find community acupuncture with a sliding scale that starts at $20 a treatment. Private treatment in my area is typically $80 a session. Small group coaching is also an option for folks who cannot afford one-on-one sessions.

  • Consider trying the natural route. Herbs can be way cheaper than prescription drugs. Emphasis on “can be.” It really depends on who you’re working with and what you’re taking.

  • Work with your community to do bulk ordering/resource sharing. Let’s say you want a Rife machine, which retails for about $800. You can find other people in your community who want one then buy it and use it collectively. Or if you need to order herbs, tea, vitamins, etc., it’s cheaper to buy in bulk, so ask around for neighbors or friends who want the same meds. You can also do this with CSAs or food delivery services, which can save energy as well as money. Finding buddies can be a good vehicle for affordable semi-private yoga, personal training, and other at-home fitness services as well.

  • Make use of coupons, credit card points, and loyalty cards. Look for health food stores with loyalty programs or memberships and look for sales on the things you use a lot. Pure Formulas offers free shipping and gives you a few different discount codes when you start ordering from them. For what I buy the most, I’ve found the best prices on Amazon so I share a Prime account with family to get free shipping. I got an Amazon credit card, which gives you money back to use on Amazon, and use that for almost everything in my life. This helps me knock some money off my herb orders on a pretty regular basis.

  • Keep track of your medical expenses. If you spend more than 10% of your income on medical expenses, you can deduct them from your taxes. The list of what you can claim is pretty extensive and includes transportation to and from doctor’s visits, as well as fees for “non-traditional medical practitioners.” You need to itemize to do this, meaning you can’t take the standard deduction and you can’t include anything that you pay for with a Health Savings or Flexible Spending Account. Read more about how to claim your deduction here.

  • Seek out free or low cost clinics. NeedyMeds is a great resources for finding free, low-cost and sliding scale clinics near you.

  • Be willing to get to the root cause of your symptoms. This is a controversial one and something I’ll write more about in a future post. Allopathic medicine is designed to keep you alive and treat symptoms, not root causes. This means that you could spend your whole life, and whole paycheck, treating symptoms without ever getting to bottom of what is causing them. Sure, you might feel better, but you might also be needlessly spending $300 a month on prescription drugs that make you feel better when you could spend the same amount to actually treat something and eventually be done with it. Choosing to search for the root cause requires some grit and ruthlessness, but it can save you a lot of money and suffering in the long run.