How to Manage Bipolar Disorder… when you don’t have insurance:

Bipolar Disorder with no Health Care Insurance: What are my options?

I just received this question via Twitter.  It’s such an important topic, I wanted to give as many tips and resources as possible. These tips are all excellent ideas, even if you do have insurance!

**Hi Julie, Someone I love is battling bp. I really want 2 help her. She can’t afford insurance. We live in NY. Don’t like 2 see her suffer. advice?Here is my reply: No insurance to treat bipolar disorder?  There are ways to get the help you need!

  1. Contact your local NAMI or DBSA and see if they resources for local organizations that help those without insurance. Here are their web addresses www.nami.org and www.dbsalliance.org.  If you live in a larger city- there are often branches in your area.
  2. Check to see if your state has a low income insurance plan. Often they are full- but if you get on the wait list for the future, there is a chance.  
  3. Ask everyone you know if there is a free clinic- low income clinic or a teaching hospital where you can get help. I also suggest calling a hospital psych department- they usually have a lot of information.  
  4. Visit www.moodgarden.org for peer support.  There are probably many there who can offer advice.
  5. Let your health care professional know you don’t have insurance and ask them about any prescription assistance that may be available to you. You can also research this on your own by visiting www.needymeds.org. Almost all drug companies have drug assistance programs- you can go to their main site for more information. Pharmacies such as in Wal-Mart offer generics for as little as $4. Here is a PDF link to the bipolar disorder medications they cover. It’s a much longer list than you might expect! http://i.walmartimages.com/i/if/hmp/fusion/customer_list.pdf
  6. Work as a team.  You both have to learn to manage the triggers that lead to bipolar disorder symptoms.  You can do this through my books, exercising together, working on relationship skills and talking in the most positive and hopeful terms possible. Bipolar disorder is an illness that affects a person’s ability to manage their emotions- the better you two communicate with each other- the less mood swings for your partner! My book Get it Done When You’re Depressed: 50 Strategies for Keeping Your Life on Track is very action oriented- there are many ideas in Get it Done When You’re Depressed that you can use together. My book Take Charge of Bipolar Disorder: A Four Step Plan for You and Your Loved Ones to Manage the Illness and Create Lasting Stability is oriented towards the person with the illness, but there are many tips for partners in there as well.  Both books are available in stores, online and in the library.
  7. Visit the bipolarhappens.com blog at www.bipolarhappens.com/bhblog.  There is a relationships category on the right. I also talk extensively about how to manage the illness throughout the blog.
  8. A person’s ability to manage the illness on their own and with the help of others is far, far more important than only relying on medications.
  9. Reduce symptoms as much as possible so that you need fewer doctor visits and less  bipolar disorder medications.  I know that when I practice what I teach in my Health Cards Treatment System for Bipolar Disorder I need less anxiety or anti psychotic meds, etc. Taking care of myself also means I don’t have to rely on my Lamictal (generic Lamotrigine) as much.  You can read about the Health Cards at www.bipolarhappens.com – and yes, there are variable rates for people who need financial help purchasing the treatment plan. 
  10. And most importantly, read my book Loving Someone with Bipolar Disorder: Understanding and Helping Your Partner.  For the cost of a dinner out, this book will give you all of the tools you need to manage the illness as a couple. Of course, it’s better if you can do it with bipolar disorder medications as well- but I know from experience that this book can cut symptoms by as much as half and it saves relationships as well!  This was one of the top selling bipolar disorder books in the world last year. It’s also available in most US libraries- if not, you can request that they order it. If you go to a book store and read the chapter The Bipolar Conversation- you can learn more in a few minutes on how to manage the illness than you ever thought possible!

 As we all know, the health care insurance system in the US is very broken. This is especially hard for people with bipolar disorder as we need to manage the illness daily. It really is up to us to do all that we can to stay healthy while we look for health care. There is hope and there are a lot of options as you can see. Your partner is very lucky to have you. When you work together, stability and a strong relationship are the rewards!  

Julie Fast

www.juliefast.com

6 comments to How to Manage Bipolar Disorder… when you don’t have insurance:

  • HB

    Those are some great tips! Julie is right, there is a lot that can be done through education, support groups, and trying to control triggers.

    For people in NY state, there is a health insurance for low income people, here is the info:
    http://www.ins.state.ny.us/website2/hny/english/hnyeci.htm

    The only other ideas I would add, is that there are some over-the-counter supplements that may treat some of the symptoms of bipolar disorder. For example, Lithium Orotate helps stabilize mood for some people. Also the supplements 5-HTP, St John’s Wort, & Magnesium can help with mild depression. However, taking a supplement such as 5-HTP that effects serotonin could trigger rapid-cycling or mania, so working with a professional is a good idea.

    Hope this helps!

  • Nice post Julie. One of the many problems that we see in our business is the complexity of managing the multiple prescription assistance programs that are available. Some of the drug companies are very easy to work with but others are just horrible! Because they are voluntary and not mandated by law, all of the drug companies have different forms and guidelines. If we have a patient that is just taking one or two medicines and has good organizational skills, we steer them to the company direct and give them guidence at no charge. If they need assistance and monitoring of the refill process then we do charge a small service fee for that.

    As you know, three groups of antidepressant medications are most often used to treat depressive disorders: tricyclics, monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), and lithium. Lithium has historically been the treatment of choice for bipolar disorder by most physicians and some forms of recurring, major depression. More recently, doctors have also been using anticonvulsants for bipolar disorder. Your doctor must consider your own personal health history in determining what is best for you.

    Most of these expensive medications have assistance programs for low income, uninsured patients to help them with the cost.

  • ok paying for the meds is one part but what about getting a doctor to see you when you are completely broke to write y9ou a prescription so you can start controling your bipolar disorder. We have a place here but you must have medicaid or pay for the first visit and it may seem cheap at $50 for some but to me $50 is a week of groceries when the foodstamps have ran out I have 4 children I have to feed and take care of and they have medicaid but I dont qualify because I recieve $243 a month child support payments. thats too much income to qualify for adult medicaid. so what do I do.

  • Chris

    Im in the same boat. I work 50 hours a week for $400. I have a wife, 2 kids, no insurance. I really need help. I’ve dealt with this for 14 years but have never been able to get help. I’ll pay for a prescription, but I need a doctor to give me one. Ive seen that you can buy these drugs online, but that seems highly illegal. Please give me a low cost plan.

  • Paul H. Norman

    I have been told I may have bipolar issues. Where can I get more info.

    Paul
    Dublin, CA

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