Are you paying more for prescription drugs? The stats say that you probably are. I recently wrote an article about the prescription drug industry. Through my research, I learned that nearly 7 in 10 Americans are on at least one prescription drug and more than half of Americans take two drugs. It’s a $326 billion industry and growing – that breaks down to an average of $1459 per person each year or $122 per month.
Add to that, a frightening trend: many Americans are learning that their drug is no longer covered by their insurance company. Further, those costs may not count against a deductible or out-of-pocket maximum, making it 100% your responsibility. This is one way insurance companies can keep their costs down. If they cover fewer drugs, less comes out of their pocket. The bummer is that more comes out of your pocket.
Below are 7 ways you might save on your prescriptions…
1) Ask your doctor for other Rx options
Think about it: your doctor knows a lot about you, but probably doesn’t know how much you’re paying for your prescriptions. If you’re getting hit with higher prices, check-in to see if there’s a more frugal option. And, it’s always a good idea to take inventory at your annual exam time. It’s possible there’s a new drug option on the market or maybe a drug you’ve taken for years now has a much less expensive generic version.
2) Go generic
The chemical formula of a generic drug is exactly the same as the original brand name drug. While there’s no difference in the formula of the drug, there’s a big difference in price. Let’s put it in terms of peanut butter at Walmart: you can buy Skippy or you can buy Walmart’s private label, Great Value. Which is going to be less expensive? Um, Great Value (as the name would convey). Is the taste that much different? Not really.
Here’s the good news: recent studies show that the average cost of a brand-name drug is about 4 times as much as a generic. Here’s the catch: sometimes you have to wait for the generic version because drug companies patent their original formula. This gives them exclusivity for many years to help recoup the costs of developing the drug. The bottom line is this: always ask if there’s a generic version of your drug because it can end up saving you a pretty penny (that you can spend on Skippy).
3) Ask your doctor for actions you can take
Five years ago, my friend was diagnosed with Diabetes. In this article, she shares the 4 steps she took to reverse the effects that her poor eating habits and lack of exercise had done to her health. Spoiler alert: within 10 months, she was able to come off all diabetic drugs and felt better than she had in years. That was 5 years ago!
Obviously, this won’t work for everyone, but there are plenty of drugs being taken today to make up for poor diet and exercise habits. Be honest with yourself about what’s genetic and what you can directly impact.
4) Ask your insurance broker
Remember earlier when I said that many people find their insurance plan no longer covers their specific medications? Look no further than you insurance broker for help – they know all the ins and outs of health insurance plans.
If you’re buying a plan on your own, be sure they have a list of your medications so they can choose a plan that includes your prescriptions and/or has the best pricing. If you get your insurance through an employer, you probably have a choice between a couple different health plans. In that case, the insurance broker (or maybe your HR contact) can review your Rx list to determine which plan will be the best choice for you.
5) Try a prescription discount card
You may not realize this, but drug companies negotiate pricing on every drug at every pharmacy, so there are different prices EVERYWHERE. As a result, prescription discount cards can end up being very handy because they offer a different option and the ability to search for your drug/dosage in a specific local area.
Here’s my story of how we used a prescription discount card to save $2190.
At his previous employer, my husband’s generic drug co-pay was $10 per month. When he switched medical plans, he learned it would now be $125. What? We called the new insurance provider who informed us they didn't cover ANY acid reflux drugs on this particular medical plan. When an insurance company removes a drug from a plan, they don't typically pass on ANY of their negotiated discounts to the insured.
There we were, left to pay the full retail price! It was at this point we remembered our prescription discount card. We went to a website where we entered the prescription info (dosage, timing, etc.) and zip code. We found local pharmacies with prices ranging from $52 to $108 a month for this drug. Our local Walgreen's had it for $52. As you can see, for the 2 ½ years we had that medical plan, we never would have had access to this pricing without our prescription discount card.
One note of caution: not all prescription discount cards are created equal! There are some that give weak discounts and at very few locations, so beware. Look for cards that offer 60,000+ locations and 35%+ average discount (most average only 15-18% discount).
6) Ask your pharmacist
What if you get a prescription from your doctor only to arrive at the pharmacy and find it’s way more than you can spend. Check with the pharmacist to see if there’s an over-the-counter version that might work just as well at a much lower price. Health.com gives this example, “For example, if the doctor prescribes a drug for allergies, ask if you can instead take Allegra, Claritin, Zyrtec or another medication available on pharmacy shelves.” They also accurately caution that most health insurance plans don’t cover over-the-counter medications, so you’ll be paying the full amount and it won’t go toward your deductible.
7) Find some help
If you’re overwhelmed by the costs, you may qualify for help! Healthcare.gov has compiled a helpful list of Prescription Assistance alternatives. Also, try a state subsidy program - click here to learn more and see if there’s one in your state.
Now, the only question is: what will you do with all that money you (hopefully) save?
It’s your turn. Do you have expensive prescriptions? Have you tried any of the ideas above? Did you save money or not? What other questions can I help answer? Feel free to post questions in the comments below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!