Tip #9: Obtaining & Affording AndrogelPosted: February 12, 2012
Androgel is a medical product. So, of course, it is generally obtained through medical veins. Let’s just say it: trans men do not have the easiest time getting what they need from the medical system. If Androgel is on your path, you might face a bevy of issues before you even get it — mostly around obtaining & affording it. Like with applying Androgel, there are many nuances to consider.
Obtaining Androgel (legally) requires a prescription from a medical professional. As simple as that statement is, even obtaining that prescription and walking out the pharmacy door with Androgel in your hands is not a clear-cut process. How that looks depends on a lot of important questions.
Do you have a doctor? Do you have insurance? Can you afford Androgel out-of-pocket, if necessary? What if your insurance covers injectable testosterone and not Androgel? How does your doctor file your request with the insurance company? How does the insurance company list your gender? How does your state handle refills? Are there any alternative products that are more affordable?
The answer to these questions can help determine your path to acquiring Androgel.
Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. The opinions expressed in this article are my own and should not be taken as medical advice. If you want to confirm or clarify something you read, please contact a medical professional.
Do you have a doctor?
That’s a loaded question. It should go more like: Do you have a doctor who cares & is willing to work on your behalf? Obtaining a prescription for Androgel is not as simple as walking into any doctor’s office and saying you need it. If you are legally listed as female (and, perhaps, even if you’re legally male), in the eyes of some doctors, in the eyes of the medical system, in the eyes of the insurance companies — there is not a clear medical justification for you having Androgel. So, what you need is a doctor who understands where you’re coming from and is willing to go through the process with you of obtaining Androgel or obtaining an alternative.
The best ways that I have found good doctors are through word-of-mouth and through my local LGBT clinic. I know — not every area has such clinics and not every guy has a buddy waiting with doctor recommendations. But, it’s worth doing whatever footwork and research it takes to find a doctor that understands and cares about your needs. It will make for a much more productive visit and a smoother ride through often unpleasant medical processes.
Do you have insurance?
Having or not having insurance definitely plays a factor in obtaining & affording Androgel (or not). Once again, having insurance does not guarantee you a clear-cut path to walking out the door with Androgel (or other forms of testosterone) in your hands.
First, not everyone has insurance. I cannot talk for another generation, but I know a lot of my peers do not have insurance. Frankly, a lot of young people do not have insurance and especially a lot of young trans men do not have insurance. And, people of all ages may not have insurance — it’s expensive and a pain and only subsidized in certain instances.
Androgel is more expensive out-of-pocket than injectable testosterone with syringes. I won’t claim to know exactly why — but some of this has to do with branding. If you’ve ever tried to obtain generic testosterone instead of branded testosterone, you’ll see a large different in price. For example, my pharmacy once couldn’t obtain generic injectable testosterone for me, so they just gave me the non-generic stuff — the price jumped from $10 to $40. So, I took my prescription to another place.
Having insurance cuts the high out-of-pocket price for Androgel. But even if you have insurance — not all insurance companies cover it. From many guys I’ve heard that it’s more likely their insurance covers injectable testosterone and not Androgel, but I’m not sure why that is. In my own experience, I’ve had an insurance company not cover it and an insurance company cover it. When it wasn’t covered, the expense was too much for me and I opted for the much cheaper injectable testosterone (which happened to be covered). For me right now, having Androgel covered cuts the price from ~$100 to $20 a month.
If you do have insurance, there are still more confounding factors. What also stands in the way is how your doctor lists your reason for requesting Androgel with the insurance company and what gender the insurance company has you listed under. If your doctor is savvy, they will list your request as something reasonable, something that won’t look suspicious or out-of-place to the insurance company. However, if you are listed as female with the insurance company, that may still pose a roadblock. Insurance companies are looking for a reason to deny people medication, so as to cut costs. Being listed as female and requesting testosterone can be a red flag for them and you can be denied for it. After that, you have a few options. You can argue with the insurance company about the decision, you can pay out-of-pocket, you can work on getting the way your gender is listed with the insurance company changed (which might require getting your gender legally changed), or you can find an alternative source of testosterone that you’re comfortable with.
Do you have alternatives?
If you’re working on obtaining Androgel, there’s probably a reason. While obtaining injectable testosterone isn’t always easy, it can be easier than obtaining Androgel. It does come in a generic form — which can cut cost with or without insurance. There are online resources for obtaining injectable testosterone that are relatively affordable. In some states, you can acquire syringes over the counter cheap, due to the need for clean needles for intravenous drug users. The more guys use injectable testosterone, the easier it is to find a buddy who will give you some. You don’t find many guys with abundances of Androgel lying around.
It can be easier for so many reasons to get injectable testosterone — but if you’re asking for Androgel, there’s probably a reason why. For example, my need for Androgel stems from a needle-phobia. In reality, my need for Androgel is really a need for an alternative to injectable testosterone.
In my experience, and in talking to other trans men, it seems that we’re often given 2 options for testosterone — injectable testosterone and non-generic testosterone gel (like Androgel). I didn’t even realize there were other options available until my last appointment when I was discussing with a new doctor my need for Androgel. She mentioned an alternative that I’d never heard of: Women’s International Pharmacy Testosterone Cream. This is a generic testosterone cream made my the Women’s International Pharmacy and is much cheaper out-of-pocket than Androgel. And, there are other options as well, such as testosterone patches. I cannot speak to the cost of alternatives or the hassle of obtaining them — but it needs to be said that there are alternatives. If you need something besides injectable testosterone, it’s worth exploring different options. And, these options might prove to be more affordable for you or much preferable in their application.
I’m going to mention one last topic here that I definitely don’t know much about: “green transitioning”. In my understanding, green transitioning involves raising your body’s free testosterone levels through the use of certain natural products (vitamins, powders, teas, etc) at certain intervals and altering your body’s appearance through exercise. I mention this because I think it’s an alternative to testosterone gel and injectable testosterone that we don’t hear about a lot. If anyone wants to share their knowledge about green transitioning, please get in touch.
In short, obtaining Androgel isn’t always a smooth process. If you don’t have insurance, it can be costly. If you do have insurance, it may not be granted to you and may not even be covered. If Androgel (or simply an alternative to injectable testosterone) is what you need, being told to fork over $100 a month is not necessarily the end of the road. It helps to have a savvy medical professional on your side. It helps simply to know you have options.