How To Treat ADHD Without Insurance (Or When Your Insurance Sucks)

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adhd without insurance


Even with the best of insurance, treating ADHD can cost a small fortune. In fact, companies like GoodRx have built entire businesses on helping people patients learn how to treat ADHD without insurance or when insurance is inadequate.

In 2012, the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry reported that ADHD care was costing $2,720 a year for children and $4,120 for adults. However, the real numbers are surely higher. In that same study, families reported paying thousands more a year for non-medical strategies … not to mention that a ton has changed in both the insurance and pharmaceutical industries since 2012.

In my personal experience, I have always been fortunate enough to have health insurance. However, when I left corporate America for the small business world, I quickly learned that not all insurance policies were created equal. That combined with changes in the health insurance industry have been wreaking havoc on my wallet ever since.

Related: Mothering With ADHD | Time Management With ADHD

The first way it impacted me was when my psychiatrist dropped my insurance carrier (Humana). She was sick of having to work with them, and honestly she didn’t have to. It was so hard to find a good psychiatrist in the first place that I ended up keeping her for years, paying out of pocket. She was the one who diagnosed me, she accepted me for who I was at a time when my previous psychiatrist had refused to meet me where I was. Because of her I had gone from striving to thriving within a year following my diagnosis. I paid up.

ADHD Without Insurance

Paying out-of-pocket worked for awhile. But when my premium continued to spike because of shake-ups in the health insurance industry, I could no longer justify paying for a psychiatrist out-of-pocket. By now I was in maintenance mode with my ADHD treatment, so I  made a switch to somebody in my network. It’s been good so far.

But that brings me to medication. My current doctor challenged me to try extended release Adderall, because she didn’t think the short-acting version was serving me. However, when you add an XR to it the price more than doubles (which was how I ended up on short-acting in the first place). Funny thing is, I never wanted to be on Adderall. Focalin was working just fine, but at some point in my journey Humana forced me to first try Adderall.

To add insult to injury, during all this I was unable to get generic Adderall for some reason. I can’t really explain how all this happened, but I think this New York Times explanation has got to be in the ballpark:

Consumers have grown accustomed to being told by insurers — and middlemen known as pharmacy benefit managers — that they must give up their brand-name drugs in favor of cheaper generics. But some are finding the opposite is true, as pharmaceutical companies squeeze the last profits from products that are facing cheaper generic competition.

Out of public view, corporations are cutting deals that give consumers little choice but to buy brand-name drugs — and sometimes pay more at the pharmacy counter than they would for generics.

But back to the original point: my doctor said I needed the XR, but I was taking something less suitable for me because I just couldn’t afford it. Eventually she talked me into making cuts elsewhere in my budget and sucking it up and paying the higher price. It’s not fair and it really, really sucks … but I weighed the pros and cons and decided in the end to make that choice.

So yeah, it’s a mess. Big time. And while I’m going to share these tips and truly believe they can help, it’s not enough by a longshot. Until we get some real changes in our healthcare system, it’s going to be rough.

Defraying The Cost of ADHD Treatment

Here are a few ways to pinch pennies while trying to afford to live with ADHD:

Prescription Discount Cards – While most of us have taken advantage of generics and free samples, GoodRx is another way to save money on prescription medications. I’ve found that GoodRx cards – or other discount cards on-file at the pharmacy – can at times be cheaper than insurance co-pays.

Homeopathics – While there is little evidence supporting homeopathic remedies as an effective treatment, they continue to grow in popularity. I’ve had my own limited success in homeopathics (using essential oils for focus and anxiety). That said, I primarily use prescription medications now that I’m no longer pregnant.

Kim Keelan, CH who is certified in hypnosis and is a life coach, recommends looking into alternative supplements like Synaptol.*  (Fun fact: Kim helped me through some anxiety issues when I had to go off of most of my prescription medication while I was pregnant.)

With active ingredients like green oat grass, sweet violet and skullcap, Synaptol is stimulant-free. While each of Synaptol’s ingredients is listed in the National Center for Homeopathy’s Materia Medica database, no clinical studies have been done, according to ADDitude magazine. User reviews on ADDitude’s site show mixed results.

In addition to Synaptol, supplements such as zinc, L-caratine, vitamin B-6, and magnesium may improve ADHD symptoms. Multivitamins like Neurobalance combine these supplements into a single pill.

Behavior Modification – From color coding to proper exercise and nutrition, there are plenty of ways to treat ADHD without prescription medication. When I was first diagnosed at work, management was able to relocate my desk to somewhere that was less distracting, and this helped a lot. Now at my home office, I have recently added a room separator to keep my office truly separate from other distractions. These free and low-cost changes can go a long way to trying to get back some control in your day.

Educational Resources – From ADDitude magazine to books for women with ADHD, keeping yourself informed about ADHD can be a powerful way of coping with it. Here are three books I’m reading right now as part of a self-paced ADHD coaching course:

  • Changing For Good – This one’s not just about ADHD and can apply to any type of life change like quitting smoking or weight loss.
  • Driven To Distraction – Written by Dr. Edward Hallowell, a psychiatrist leading expert on ADHD who has it himself. Includes several vignettes of various people coming to terms with their ADHD.
  • Women With Attention Deficit Disorders – Written by Sari Solden, a therapist and leading expert on women with ADHD. Empowers women to embrace their differences to transform their lives.

Support Groups – While ADHD coaching or therapy can be expensive, joining a support group doesn’t have to be. Free and low-cost options abound, from local CHADD chapters to online support groups like Adulting Club, which is Adulting With ADHD’s very own accountability group.

Federal and state assistance programs – From sliding scale therapy to community health centers, check out these options. You may also be able to find a therapist or ADHD coach who works on a sliding scale for people without adequate insurance coverage.

And, finally, one last tip from Kim, who also hosts the Mind-Body channel in our accountability group:

“I think rewiring the brain via hypnosis or other methods is imperative part and also self-acceptance of who we are. I think each of us are unique in our own talents and I think we learn to excel at what we are good at focus on that instead of what we aren’t good at. Focus on being creative finding your passion in life is a huge key because I think for the most part ADD/ADHD lose interest when they are bored.”

What are your favorite strategies for affording to cope with ADHD? Shoot me an email at contact at adultingwithadhd dot com to share your tips or to ask questions for future episodes.

*Any recommendations are solely based on the practitioner’s personal opinion and should never be taken as medical advice as she is not a therapist or physician, always consult your medical provider to avoid any drug interactions.

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