Long term illness/disease? How to cut the costs

Jordon Cox

By MoneySavingExpert's Coupon Kid, Jordon Cox

I have first-hand experience that saving money while trying to manage a health condition can be a challenge. Forever mounting costs can also add unwanted stress, which can slow down the road to recovery.

Ever since I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease four years ago, I’ve been prescribed (and paid for) countless different drugs each month, tried infinite pricey specialist diet foods and been forced to shell out £100s on taxis when I physically couldn’t stand to wait for a bus or tackle the tube.

If this sounds all too familiar, then you’ll know how all-consuming and stressful this can become. Unfortunately, disability benefits and grants from the Government to cover these costs are incredibly difficult to get approved, meaning your illness could leave you seriously out of pocket. Luckily, I’ve got a few tips from my own personal experience to help you cut those costs:

Pay for prescriptions? Get a prepayment certificate

If you are on regular medication and don’t qualify for free prescriptions, paying £8.60 each time (which will increase to £8.80 in April this year) is a real money burner. A few months ago – I was on four monthly prescriptions, costing £34.40 a month. Ouch! That just adds to my pain.

Luckily, you can save money on prescriptions by buying a prepayment certificate for £104. Basically, this is your season ticket to drugs (the legal kind!). Once you’ve bought the certificate, that’s all you pay for, regardless of how many prescriptions you use it for.

If you’re only paying for one prescription per month, the pass isn’t worth it. However, if you need more than one, you’ll make a saving. For instance, if you need two prescriptions every month for a year, it’ll cost you £206.40. As the one-off fee for the annual pass is £104, you’d saving £102.40 – practically cutting the cost of your medicine in half.

You can backdate your prescription purchases by a month after you have bought the pass too, so if you have just started on a bigger prescription package, you can claim last month’s back too. See more in our prescriptions guide.

Prescriptions aren’t always the cheapest

If you’ve done the maths and decided you don’t need a prepayment certificate, it’s always worth checking whether there is an alternative over the counter version of your medication that works out cheaper. In shops such as Boots or Superdrug, you may often find the same thing for cheaper than an £8.60 prescription.

For example, a prescription at the pharmacy for my Psoriasis cream would have cost me £8.60 as always, but Boots’ own over the counter version was only £5 – a £3.60 saving. Make sure you check with the pharmacist that you’re getting exactly like-for-like – you don’t want to reduce the remedial benefits of a medicine just to save on cost.

On a specialist diet? Contact companies for freebies/coupons!

Whether you are lactose intolerant, suffer from Coeliacs (allergy to gluten) or are just having trouble digesting certain foods, alternatives tend to come at a premium. However, I’ve found that contacting solely free-from food producers directly can earn you some freebies and/or discount coupons.

I once received a massive food hamper (valued at over £20) containing one of each product in its range from gluten and meat-free company, Amy’s Kitchen.

All I did was write to them via their ‘contact us’ page explaining my situation and asked if they were able to send any samples or coupons so I could test out the products before buying something I may end up having a reaction to. You won’t get coupons or freebies every single time, but it’s definitely worth a shot.

Research which brands you think will suit you best. Here are a few companies that I’ve tried:

  • Amy’s Kitchen (gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan)
  • Alpro (lactose-free)
  • Arla (lactose-free)
  • Bfree (wheat & gluten-free)
  • Genius (gluten-free)
  • Kelkin (gluten-free)
  • Quorn (vegetarian)
  • Schar (gluten-free)

Don’t get sucked down the ‘Free From’ aisle

Although free-from brands are a good place to start, there’s no need to limit yourself to the free-from aisle. In an MSE investigation last year, we found products in the normal aisles that were free from gluten, wheat, lactose and more without being advertised as such, and that they were a lot cheaper than their specialist counterparts.

Some of them were quite big savings too. One bottle of ‘gluten free’ ketchup that we found in the Free From aisle cost £2.50 for 315g (79p per 100g). Yet after we high tailed it down to the sauce aisle, we found a bottle of ketchup with no gluten in (but not advertised as gluten free) at 76p for 1kg (7.6p per 100g). We also found some products such as Oreos are “accidentally vegan”, containing no milk or animal products.

Next time you’re at the supermarket, have a look at the ingredients of all your products to check if they’re safe for you to eat or not.

So, those are my tips. To everyone else suffering with illnesses or long term diseases, I wish you good health and recovery – and I hope I’ve saved you some money with these tips.

What are your ways of saving money on your health? I’d love to know your ideas in the comments below, on Twitter or on Facebook.