Managing bipolar disorder can be costly. Ways to reduce out-of-pocket costs include understanding insurance coverage, seeking discounts on care, and taking preventive steps to support your health.

Bipolar disorder is a lifelong condition that can be managed with treatment. The cornerstones of that treatment are usually medication and psychotherapy.

Health insurance can go a long way to pay the bills, but without insurance — or when insurance comes up short — it’s possible to find other ways to cut costs.

Read on to learn how to find reduced cost prescriptions and mental health services and explore strategies you can use to keep healthcare expenses down.

Living with bipolar disorder can come with direct and indirect costs.

Direct costs include the money spent on treatment and medical supports. Indirect costs don’t affect everyone with bipolar disorder, but they can include time away from work and the resulting loss of income.

The usual costs of bipolar disorder include:

  • psychotherapy
  • medication
  • inpatient treatment
  • emergency room visits

People with bipolar disorder may also have other conditions that lead to greater healthcare needs, such as metabolic syndrome, substance use disorder, or anxiety.

Under the Affordable Care Act, every insurer has to provide coverage for mental health services. In general, coverage should include:

  • psychotherapy, counseling, or other behavioral health treatment
  • inpatient services for mental and behavioral health
  • treatment for substance use disorder

Mental health is an essential health benefit. That means that your insurer can’t put in lifetime or yearly limits on your coverage.

An insurance plan must also have a prescription drug benefit. This should provide reduced costs for some or all of your prescribed medications for bipolar disorder treatment. Your insurance plan will have a formulary that lists the drugs the plan will pay for.

How much you have to pay out of pocket as deductibles or copays depends on your plan. There may be limits on how many days of hospitalization or hours of psychotherapy your plan covers, so it’s a good idea to know what’s included in your plan.

To confirm what your insurer should pay for, check out your plan’s Summary of Benefits and Coverage.

Both Medicare and Medicaid also provide some coverage for mental health services and prescription drug costs.

Medicare Part A covers inpatient hospital services, including those for mental health care.

Medicare Part B covers many other health services, such as doctor visits, including meetings with a psychiatrist or clinical psychologist. Part B also covers lab tests, which may include blood work done prior to making changes to your bipolar disorder medication.

Medicare Part D covers the costs of many prescription medications. The exact drugs covered are different in each Part D plan.

Medicaid also offers coverage for some mental health services. The details depend on your state’s Medicaid program. Common types of coverage include therapy, medication management, and social work services.

There are steps you can take to reduce the costs of your bipolar disorder management. These include using low cost or free medical services and taking preventive measures to support your mental and physical health.

Get discounts on prescription medications

Many pharmacies and private companies offer prescription discount cards for free. With these, you can get a discount on prescription medications at the pharmacy counter.

There’s a catch, however: Prescription cards can’t be combined with insurance, and the discount you can get on a certain medication may change from day to day.

It’s a good idea to check your insurance plan first to see whether the price is lower with your coverage or with paying out of pocket with a discount.

Find low cost therapy

You can get primary health care services, including those for mental health, at Health Centers that provide no-cost care. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website has a search function to help you find a center near you.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) also has a search tool to help you find low cost or sliding scale service providers in the United States.

Mental health service providers may also offer counseling in formats that make treatment cheaper and more accessible. Some options can include:

  • telehealth appointments through online platforms, phone, email, or text
  • group therapy

Speaking with your primary care doctor can also be a way to find low cost therapy options. They may be able to provide a referral to a psychiatrist or clinical psychologist who’s in-network if you do have insurance.

Take proactive steps

Managing bipolar disorder can help reduce the cost of your healthcare. It can help prevent hospitalization or an emergency room visit. By following your treatment plan for BD and other conditions you may have, such as hypertension, you can spend less out-of-pocket.

Consider these tips:

  • Track your moods: This may help you see when a mood episode might come. You can work with your support team to manage the episode and prevent emergency hospitalization.
  • Have a medication review: Your psychiatrist or primary care doctor can do a periodic review of your medications. Many people stop following their treatment protocol over time, which can increase the need for emergency care. A medication review helps you and your doctor decide whether your current plan is meeting your needs.
  • Take care of your overall health: Eating a nutritious diet and exercising may help to reduce the risk of other medical conditions that might require additional medications or doctor visits.

Budget for health costs

A health cost budget can help you set aside enough money each month to cover the costs of bipolar disorder care. Consider these steps:

  • Track how much you spend on healthcare: Look at receipts for the past 3 months. Calculate your out-of-pocket expenses for prescriptions, mental health care services, doctor visits, lab tests, and other health costs.
  • Create an overall personal budget: Track costs for living expenses such as rent or mortgage, utilities, transportation, food, and other essentials. Include the cost of healthcare in your budget.

In addition to calculating health costs, you may also want to consider opening a separate savings account for medical emergencies or unexpected costs. Making a monthly contribution to this account can form part of your personal budget.

The Affordable Care Act mandates that mental health services and prescription drug coverage are part of all healthcare plans. If you’re underinsured or uninsured, you can access low cost or free therapy and medications.

Staying consistent with your bipolar disorder treatment program and regularly reviewing medications with your doctor can help prevent the risk of an emergency or acute hospitalization.