Chronic diseases account for 86% of the nation’s healthcare costs and are responsible for seven of ten deaths each year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, half of all American adults have at least on chronic condition with nearly one of three having multiple chronic conditions to contend with. The out-of-pocket costs associated with managing a chronic disease continue to climb, resulting in a situation where many people are struggling to pay for maintenance medication or worse are forced to skip it altogether. That in turn creates even more pricey health incidents, further taxing the healthcare system in America. But while chronic diseases can be financially taxing, there are ways to reduce the burden on the patient. From getting healthy to going generic, here’s a look at four ways to manage chronic illness expenses. (See also: Fighting The High Costs Of Healthcare.)

Trade Unhealthy Habits for Good Ones

When it comes to chronic diseases, the most common ones in America include heart disease and stroke, cancer, diabetes, obesity and arthritis. And some primary causes, or exacerbating factors, of those diseases: lack of physical activity, poor eating habits, smoking and excessive alcohol consumption. While chronic diseases plaque a lot of people, one way to bring down the costs of medication, tests and doctor visits is to reign in some of those unhealthy lifestyle choices. For instance if you suffer from obesity, an exercise and diet plan can go a long way in improving your health and your finances. Same goes with heart disease and stroke. Forgoing excessive drinking and giving up smoking will improve your overall health and reduce the costs associated with your disease. (See also: Six Ways Retirees Can Save On Prescription Drugs.)

Opt for Generic Drugs or Buy in Bulk to Save

One of the biggest costs a chronic disease sufferer will face is the expense of their prescription drugs. Often people with a chronic disease will be required to take multiple medicines each month, which can quickly add up. A way to reduce some of the cost is to go with a generic medicine as opposed to a brand name one. Consumers can save as much as 30% by switching to a generic version of their prescription medicine. If your doctor can’t prescribe you a generic drug, then ask if there is an alternative, lower-cost medicine you can take.

If getting a generic version of your meds isn’t an option, you can save by purchasing a bulk supply of the medication. Buying in bulk can save a lot of money, but consumers have to be careful that they don’t buy too much. Purchase more than a 90-day supply, and you could face expiration dates that make the medicine less effective. (See also: 6 Common Conditions With Expensive Medications.)

Choose a Health Insurance Plan That Covers a Lot of Out-of-Pocket Expenses

Anyone who has a chronic illness knows that with their disease comes a lot of medication, doctor’s visits, tests and trips to see specialists. All of that costs consumers money in terms of co-payments, co-insurance, time off from work and travel. And while many consumers have been trained to shop for health insurance on premiums alone, going with a low-cost health insurance plan can actually cost a chronic illness sufferer more than choosing a pricier one. In order to make sure you have the least out-of-pocket costs as possible, you have to figure out the total cost of care and then choose a plan based on that. After all that low premium plan may be cheap each month, but the co-pay, deductible and co-insurance could be high, making it unaffordable for someone who uses their health insurance a lot. The plan you go with should include your doctors and specialists in network and have no referral requirement, particularly if you have multiple health issues. It’s also a good idea to find a policy that offers disease management services like a health coach or nurse that can aid in keeping your disease under control.

Shop Around for Your Care

Thanks to the Internet, consumers can now be savvy shoppers when it comes to healthcare, and that can be particularly true for people suffering from chronic illnesses. From medication to medical procedures there are a lot of price differences from one healthcare provider to the next, which is why consumers have to shop around for their care. Take a CT scan for example. A CT scan at an outpatient facility is going to cost a lot less than having it done at a hospital. The Internet is a treasure trove of information on the cost of a whole suite of medical procedures and prescription drugs. Think your provider is charging you too much, look elsewhere. (See also: 7 Mistakes To Avoid When Buying Health Insurance.)

The Bottom Line

Chronic illnesses impact countless Americans, and they are one of the primary reasons for out-of-hand healthcare costs in America. Many people can’t afford to manage their diseases, creating an endless cycle of medical incidents. Thankfully there are ways to reduce the costs consumers have to pay. Getting healthy, choosing generic drugs, going with a benefit-rich healthcare plan and becoming a smart healthcare shopper are all ways to reduce the burden for people suffering from these diseases.