How to Find Affordable Physical Therapy

Recovering from an injury, debilitating illness, or chronic pain can be a long and difficult path. Physical therapy can be critical for anyone trying to improve the strength of their muscles, and often improves one’s quality of life. As with many longterm medical treatments, physical therapy can get expensive. Even if you have insurance that covers your PT, you’ll likely have a copay to worry about.

If you do not have insurance, then things will be more financially stringent as you will have to cover the entire cost of your appointments. If you are wealthy then this may not be a problem for you. However, most people will find getting affordable physical therapy to be a bit more difficult.

What Physical Therapy Entails

Physical therapy treatments vary from patient to patient. In general, the treatments are based on exercises designed to re-acclimate the patient to normal physical activity. This can be through the use of basic exercises, or through the use of exercise equipment such as treadmills, resistance bands, or balance bars.

There are different types of physical therapy based on the condition of the patient. Understanding your condition will help you understand how much you can expect to pay for physical therapy.

What PT Costs Without Insurance

Estimating the price of physical therapy is nearly impossibly without knowing the treatment plan and the patient’s insurance. For starters, the nature of one’s injury or condition has a major effect on the therapy needed. Some cases are temporary, and the subject needs only a few sessions of physical therapy. Other cases, like those addressing chronic pain, may require ongoing sessions.

Treatment centers have different prices — location, clientele, and specialization influence the charges from clinic to clinic. If you require specialized therapy, insurance may not be willing to cover it. Check if the treatment plan is deemed as a medical necessity. If it isn’t, you’ll have a hard time getting sign-off from an insurance company.

Generally, your first visit to a physical therapist will cost more money than your regular sessions. On your first session, your physical therapist will evaluate your needs and formulate a treatment plan. Your recurring sessions will typically be less expensive.

If you do not have insurance that covers physical therapy, you can expect to pay anywhere from $100 to $150 for a standard visit. Some specialized visits can be as expensive as $350 per session. Do as much research as you can so you know what to expect.

To further break it down, here are the costs you’re likely to pay:

  • Insured: If you’re insured, you’ll pay, on average, 20% of your PT costs. For example, your cut of a $100 fee would be $20.
  • Uninsured: If you’re uninsured, expect to pay $100 to $150 per session. This becomes more expensive if your care plan calls for more frequent trips to the treatment center.

Specialized Physical Therapy Treatments

Some physical therapy treatments go beyond mere exercises and strength training. Check with your insurance to see if these specialities are covered. Some will, some won’t. It depends on your type of coverage.

Treatments such as acupuncture or cryotherapy, for example, are not universally accepted by the medical community. Hydrotherapy is more likely to be covered if a doctor deems it essential. 

If you want to save money on these specialized treatments, your best option is to reach out to treatment centers and ask for any money-saving measures they have. It’s not uncommon for treatment centers to work with patients on cutting costs. Some treatment centers even offer discounts on regular sessions if there is a finite number of them. They do this in the form of bundling the sessions into one overarching cost — this saves money in the long run.

Utilizing Your Insurance Plan

If you have insurance, your insurance provider is the first resource you need to use. Some insurance companies may suggest a specific in-network healthcare facility. Staying with your insurance provider’s network is one of the better options you have, but do not mistake that for being the only option.

If Medicare is your insurance, approximately 80% of your treatment cost is covered. This leaves you with the remaining 20%. For example, if your physical therapy sessions cost $100, you would pay $20.

Thinking Out of the Box

When your doctor prescribes physical therapy, ask about alternative services for physical therapy. Some facilities offer free physical therapy treatment. The trade-off? Trainees to be administering the therapy. These sessions are usually supervised.

Your doctor may also be able to suggest treatment centers that offer sliding-scale payments, meaning that they will only charge you based on what you can afford.

Doing Treatment at Home

Depending on the nature of one’s physical condition and what they are physically capable of doing, it is possible to do physical therapy exercises from home. This could reduce the number of necessary sessions that a patient would need. It needs to be stressed that this should only be done if one’s physical therapist were to agree that the patient is healthy enough to do them at home. This can ultimately save hundreds of dollars if done correctly.

In order to take this route you should ask the physical therapist to demonstrate any and all necessary exercises. You should record the demonstrations if the physical therapist is comfortable with you doing so. You should not do the exercises without an additional person who can assist you unless your physical therapist deems it safe to do so.

PT Apps

If you get the green light from your physical therapist to do at-home therapy there are apps you can download that will make keeping up with your physical therapy easier, in and out of the treatment center. Best of all, these apps will help you make physical therapy more affordable. Here are some great options:

Physera – Physera keeps you connected with highly qualified physical therapy experts remotely. If you are unable to make it to an actual treatment center or do not have insurance that covers physical therapy this option may be effective. The rates for using Physera are lower than in-person visits, with your first assessment session costing $100 and subsequent sessions costing $50.

PT Pal Pro – PT Pal Pro is an app that enables you to keep up with your physical therapy. Think of it as having a digital personal assistant that can remind you of PT appointments, keep track of your treatment plans, and even how you are doing with your physical therapy. It is an indispensable tool that can help you stay on top of your PT and potentially reduce the amount of it you have to do. It is available for free on Apple devices.

PT Timer Stretch and Exercise – This is an app designed specifically to keep track of performance of PT exercises. The patient is able to do their exercises and have a strict record of how long their exercises took, what difficulties they had with them, or any other notable detail. The app relays the notes to the physical therapist tracking the patient’s progress. This saves money by enabling the user to keep up with their physical therapy outside the treatment center.

CoPatient – Sometimes you cannot save money up front. That does not mean that you cannot save money after your appointment. CoPatient looks at your past medical bills to review the accuracy of the billing. If they find any potential savings they will only charge 35% of the savings for their fee.

Doing Your Due Diligence

One of the best ways that you can reduce the amount of money spent on physical therapy is to fully commit to your physical therapy. This may seem obvious, but it is easy to become lax with physical therapy schedules and exercises over time. This is understandable because physical therapy can be strenuous and difficult.

If you stick to your PT schedule, do the exercises required of you, and follow the advice of your physical therapist, your condition will improve so you can complete your physical therapy. The sooner you finish with physical therapy, the sooner you reduce the cost to zero.

You may not be able to nullify further physical therapy due to having a chronic condition, but you can still reduce the number of visits you take by staying on top of your therapy. This may not save you on the rate that you pay for your physical therapy, but it should reduce the frequency at which you pay it.

Don’t Skimp

Saving money is important. Saving your health is more important. Don’t make the mistake of putting your health at risk trying to save yourself money. Talk to your insurance provider, ask questions of your doctors, and speak to treatment centers that provide physical therapy. Chances are good that you can find ways to save a few dollars.

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