When Money Is a Problem - Options for Getting Better

When money is an issue, it can present challenges to getting OCD treatment.  But don’t give up.  Here are some ideas for how to pay for treatment or stretch limited dollars to get help.

  • Some colleges and universities offer Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) without cost to registered students.  Check the requirements to determine if you must be considered a full-time student to take advantage of the school’s health services.  You may have to be taking a minimum number of class hours to qualify as a full-time student.
  • If your student health center or counseling service is able to provide CBT, whether through an on-site cognitive behavior therapist or an arrangement with a local hospital or doctor, it may be covered under your student health insurance, or available at a discount.
  • Call the insurance office at your school to find out:
    • Which services are covered under your student plan
    • Whether there is a list of preferred therapists for CBT treatment of OCD
    • What percentage of charges will be covered -- some insurance companies pay more if a treatment provider is part of the company’s network of providers, and pays a lower percentage of fees if the provider is “out of network.”
    • Whether your policy has annual or lifetime limits for mental health services.
  • Talk with your parents about the cost of treatment. They may be able to help in a number of different ways:
    • If you still qualify as a dependent on your family’s health insurance policy, check to see if mental health services are covered for you.
    • Parents may also be able to help you pay for the cost of treatment services, whether or not you are carried on their insurance plan.
  • If you are a married student, and your spouse is employed, check to see if you could be covered under his or her employer’s health insurance plan.  The monthly cost of being added to your spouse’s plan could be less expensive than paying for therapy without any insurance coverage.
  • If you are not married but are in a long-term committed relationship with a partner who is employed, it may be possible to be added to your partner’s employer’s health insurance plan.  Some employers offer partner insurance as an employee benefit.
  • If you don’t have any insurance options for payment, talk with your therapist (or make calls to multiple therapists if you are looking for a therapist to begin treatment with) to see if they offer a sliding scale of fees, which are fees based on your ability to pay for services.  Explain your financial situation clearly and, if necessary, try to work out a payment plan that extends over a period of time.  If your parents plan to help pay for your therapy, they will want to have this conversation with the therapist.
  • Keep in mind that it’s very important that any therapist you or your parents contact be trained and experienced in Cognitive Behavior Therapy.  Keep looking if the therapist has never conducted CBT with patients.  When you contact a therapist about OCD treatment, asking the right questions can save you time and sometimes money.  Learn more questions to ask a prospective therapist.  An appropriate amount of “due diligence” in selecting a therapist will ultimately result in finding a qualified and experienced CBT therapist.  You may also want to contact the local mental health association for names of cognitive behavior therapists and for information regarding any kind of financial assistance that may be available for treatment.  
  • If you or your parents can’t find or afford a cognitive behavior therapist, you may still try to make progress by examining professionally-reviewed self-help programs found on the Internet and smart phone applications. It is also helpful to read about OCD and use an OCD workbook to try to reduce your symptoms until you’re able to enter therapy. Go to More Resources to find a book that can help you.
  • If your therapist recommends the use of OCD medication in conjunction with Cognitive Behavior Therapy, it may be possible to obtain drugs at a reduced price.  A number of resources offer information about prescription assistance, including:
  • You can also try some of the following:
    • Ask the prescribing doctor whether a generic form of the medication prescribed is available.  Generic drugs generally are less expensive than “name brand” medications.  For example, Prozac, a brand name medication, is far more expensive than fluoxetine, the generic form of the drug
    • Call various pharmacies to find the one that offers the medication at the lowest cost.
    • Ask pharmacies if ordering a three-month supply would lower the cost.  Some insurance companies offer discounts on co-pays for prescriptions if the medications are ordered in 90-day supplies by mail or online.

Even though you want to save money, it’s very important to avoid ordering medications online from unknown sources.  Some web sites offer easy access to “doctors” who will write prescriptions that are filled by online “pharmacies.”  In some cases, junk email messages offer discounts on prescription medications, which are often filled in foreign countries.

The prices of drugs sold by some unknown sources may be attractive and far lower than those offered by local and reputable online pharmacies.  But there are many confirmed reports of online shoppers receiving fake medications.  In fact, when analyzed, some of these drugs were actually found to contain harmful substances including contaminated powders and, in one case, cement!  Obviously, you’d never want to risk taking counterfeit medications.

Even though paying for treatment can present a challenge, don’t give up.  OCD won’t go away by itself.  The sooner you start CBT, the sooner you’ll start experiencing relief from your symptoms.

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