Money Matters: A costly flu season

Education Resources, Finance 411,

It has been a costly flu season so far this year, with high numbers of flu-like symptoms, hospitalizations, and deaths. According to the CDC, the flu kills 12,000 to 49,000 people per year in the U.S., particularly affecting children, the elderly, and individuals with underlying health problems.

This week, viral headlines shared the startling news of the tragic death of a seemingly healthy Texas teacher who had put off taking antiviral medication after deeming it too expensive.

Doctors were quick to caution that the woman may have suffered flu complications even had she taken the medication immediately, and while antiviral medications can be effective, they are not a guaranteed cure.

So how can you help your wallet-conscious consumer audiences navigate this flu season?

Antiviral medications like Tamiflu can lessen flu symptoms and shorten the duration of the illness, but can also have potentially severe side effects, must be taken soon after the onset of symptoms to be most effective, and may not help in all cases. They can also be expensive, even with insurance coverage, particularly some types of high deductible plans.

Consumers should talk to their doctors about whether antiviral medications, usually prescribed for severe cases or people at risk of complications, are a good fit.

If so, doctors can wrote a prescription recommending one of multiple types of antivirals so consumers can choose a more affordable option. Patients should note the drugs’ generic names for additional less expensive options. Prices also very between pharmacies and locations, depending on supply, so price shopping can pay off.

Help your audience compare out-of-pocket prices using manufacturer or pharmacy coupons with co-pay costs. They may not have considered whether paying out-of-pocket could be cheaper.

While it isn’t a guarantee either, getting a flu shot is an effective and relatively inexpensive preventative.

Have you shown your audience how the cost of flu treatment, potential hospitalization, or even missed wages stack up against the cost of a flu shot?

Can you help your consumer news audiences budget for unexpected medical costs like antivirals in case they do become ill?

Helping your audience through the financial side of the flu can be a much-needed service on a topic combining multiple common sources of worry: money and health.

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