Finances and benefits

Asthma can affect people’s finances in different ways. People’s income may be affected by having to go part time, or give up work altogether. Jane Y felt that having to retire early had left her with financial constraints that she wouldn’t have had if she had been able to carry on working. Ann had left her full time job and was looking for something part time and less demanding, but being reliant on her husband’s income after a lifetime of being self -sufficient upset her. "I liked earning as much as my husband and feeling that we had an equal partnership. And of course that's changed". Jenny is now no longer able to work at all, and although she is hoping to do some part time work, is currently relying on benefits and her parents. She thinks sometimes people don’t always understand.
Jenny feels resentful that there is little financial help available for her parents who act as her carers. "They get no financial support because I’m their child. If I was a stranger who lived in the house and they had to support me, they’d get help."

One problem is that, unlike a physical disability, asthma comes and goes and its effects are less obvious and less predictable.
Other help available includes Motability. Through Motability, people who get higher rate disability living allowances can exchange part or all of that allowance to lease the car of their choice. Jenny explained that as part of Motability she gets free roadside assistance.

Given the need for regular medication of various types, prescription costs can also be a worry. Some people may be eligible for free prescriptions (for example people who are retired or on benefits) but many people have to pay, and some wondered if the costs could make some people decide to stop taking some of their medicines. If you pay for four or more prescriptions in three months, or for 15 prescriptions or more a year, a Pre-Payment Certificate can help. Pre-Payment Certificates are like season tickets, allowing people who need regular prescriptions to save money through a pre-paid set fee for prescriptions, regardless of the number of medicines they need.

Pre-payment certificates helped people to budget and were easier on the pocket. Jane felt it was quite a good deal, working out at around £2 per week. She could see giving all people with asthma free prescriptions ‘would practically bankrupt the NHS’, but at the same time felt it was unfair that people with asthma living in England do not qualify for free prescriptions. Jane said that this ‘annoys me more than anything’ her suggested solution was that everyone (unless they were on benefits) should pay a flat fee so there was no discrimination between conditions. Several supported the Prescription Charges Campaign which encourages the government to bring England into line with Scotland and Wales where prescriptions for people with long term conditions are free.
Travel insurance had been difficult to obtain, or more expensive, for some people if they were judged to have an increased risk of being hospitalised because of their history of past hospital admissions, or the severity of the asthma. Jane said that the cost of her travel insurance was more than half the cost of her last holiday. Susan had managed to find a good deal through her bank.
Living with asthma can result in other less obvious costs too, for example costs of cleaning and changing furnishings and flooring at home to get rid of house dust mites (see ‘Exercise, diet, weight and other lifestyle issues’), and having to pay frequently for hospital car parking if you need a lot of appointments. Some people had employed a cleaner or someone to do the garden because these would be things that trigger their asthma and were best avoided, but this was not an option that everyone could afford.


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