So you’re considering getting allergy shots, or immunotherapy, to alleviate your allergies.
If this treatment is of interest to you, you need to be mindful of a few relevant facts.
First of all, allergy shots require a huge investment of your time. As your doctor has probably already explained to you, allergy shots take quite a few years to complete – three to five years in fact. For the preliminary stage of treatment, called the “build-up phase”, you will need to visit your doctor’s office once or twice weekly to receive your shot. This stage lasts anywhere from three to six months. After the build-up phase comes the maintenance phase. During the maintenance stage, you won’t see your doctor nearly as often, but you’ll still have to go in for your shot on a monthly basis. This phase of the treatment will last anywhere from three to five years.
You also have to consider the whole needle factor. Are you squeamish about getting shots?
And finally you have the cost. Can you really afford allergy shots?
How much you’ll spend on this treatment depends on a number of factors, including where you live and what your personal medical plan will cover.
The Real Cost of Allergy Shots
Each plan differs, so if you do have private insurance you’ll want to check with your provider to see if they cover allergy shots. You wouldn’t want any last minute surprises going into treatment. Some plans offer full coverage for allergy shots, some only partial. And still others provide no coverage at all.
For Canadians without private insurance, your provincial health agency may still cover allergy shots depending on where you live. Ontario, for example, offers coverage for immunotherapy under their Ontario Drug Benefit Program. This program is available to residents of Ontario, 65 years of age or older. Check your own provincial health agency to see if your province provides coverage for this treatment.
What Americans Pay for Allergy Shots
How much do allergy shots cost south of the border?
Patients in the United States with private insurance will likely have a copay of $10 - $25 per visit. You receive the majority of your shots the first year so it will inevitably be the most expensive. Expect to pay somewhere between $550 - $1300 those first 12 months depending on your plan. After that, your costs go down as the visits become less frequent and you receive the shot on a monthly basis only. For the following two to four years, you’ll pay between $170 and $290 annually.
If you have private insurance in the states, you’ll pay somewhere between $800 and $2500 for the entire treatment. The final total will depend on the severity of your allergies and how many shots you need over the course of the treatment.
But how about those patients without insurance or with plans that don’t cover allergy shots? Are the costs too prohibitive to even consider?
Maybe not. The cost of immunotherapy goes down if you have a nurse rather than a doctor administer the injections and if you only need one as opposed to multiple shots.
Without insurance you can expect to pay between $20 and $100 per visit including the cost of the allergy serum. That first year – when you receive shots weekly – your ending balance will be between $1560 and $3900. You’ll pay around $720 to $1800 the following years once your visits have decreased from weekly to a monthly basis.
Choosing the Best Option For You
As you can see, allergy shots can come with a fairly steep price tag if you don’t have private insurance to help offset the cost. If you are on a tight budget, you’ll want to figure out exactly how much you’ll pay ahead of time. Can you have a nurse administer the injections? How many shots does your doctor think you’ll need? For how long does he or she estimate the treatment will last? These are questions you’ll want to ask before you commit to immunotherapy treatment.
You also need to understand that not everyone experiences long-term relief from allergy shots. Doctors estimate that 75-85% of all patients improve with this kind of treatment. For those who don’t feel relief from their symptoms, additional shots may be required.
When weighing the pros and cons of allergy shots, cost is a significant factor. Take the time to figure out if immunotherapy is an option you can afford. Add up what you pay now in allergy medication, doctor visits and missed days of work. You can then determine if allergy shots are a cost effective option for you.