Everyone has experienced the sticker shock of picking up an unexpectedly expensive medication from the pharmacy. Even with insurance coverage your co-pay can be expensive. Or perhaps you haven’t reached your deductible yet and have to pay the full price. How can you save money on prescriptions? Read on!
What can you do?
There are a few things you can do to try to reduce your medication spending without sacrificing your health. Do not skip medications to save money! Your health may suffer.
Talk to Your Doctor
Your doctor may be able to help you save money. Surprisingly, many times doctors do not know how much the medications they are prescribing cost. Don’t be shy about asking your doctor about:
- Possible cheaper alternatives, or a generic version, that will work as effectively as the medication you are already using or have been recently prescribed.
- Coupons – sometimes pharmaceutical companies give doctors coupons that they can give to patients.
- Free samples – which can be helpful if you are only using a medication for a short term.
- The possibility of doubling the dosage so you can split the pills in half; this will save your co-pay as you will only buy the medication every other month. However, it is important to realize that not all medications can be safely split and that it can be hard to get an exact 50-50 split, which may affect dosage. If you are going to split pills, get a pill splitter at the pharmacy.
It is important to realize that not all pharmacies charge the same prices for identical medications. Shop around by calling pharmacies, warehouse stores and supermarket pharmacies to check prices. Be sure to mention your insurance coverage so you can know what your out of pocket expenses will be.
Additionally, it is important to know that in some situations, it can be cheaper to pay for your prescription without your insurance company’s coverage. It seems impossible, but sometimes your out-of-pocket expenses are higher if the pharmacy puts in a claim for a medication. If your copay for a particular medication is high, ask the pharmacist what it would cost you without insurance. But be sure to do this before you pay!
When you only use one pharmacy, their computer system keeps track of your medications and signals potential issues. If you use more than one pharmacy to get your medications, you need to be careful about potentially dangerous drug interactions. To minimize your risk, be sure that each pharmacy you use has a full list of all of your prescription medications, over the counter drugs and herbal supplements.
Medication can be cheaper when purchased online. However, you need to realize that not all of the medications you purchase online are safe! To be safe, only use an online pharmacy that is located in the United States and requires a legitimate prescription. If in doubt, don’t buy from an online source that you aren’t sure about.
An important note
On February 26, 2019 the FDA issued a warning letter to CanaRx, a pharmaceutical middleman, regarding the sale of unapproved, misbranded and unsafe drugs. CanaRx is a broker between more than 150 employer-sponsored health insurance plans and foreign pharmacies. When CanaRx receives a US prescription, a foreign doctor rewrites the prescription, and CanaRx sends the medications from an unknown source. Although the medications supposedly come from the UK, Canada or Australia, it is impossible to know the origin or quality of each pill. FDA Commissioner Dr. Gottlieb stated that at least some of the medications received through CanaRX are “expired, mislabeled, subject to recalls or potentially counterfeit”.
Look into programs offered by your insurer.
Many large insurers have their own online pharmacy partners that can save you money. Be aware that it can take a week or so to get your first dose. You can often get further savings if you buy several months’ worth of medications at a time. However, if you are not 100% certain you will be taking a particular medication for an extended time, avoid bulk purchases.
Again, if you are using more than one pharmacy, be sure each one has a complete list of all medications used, including over the counter medications and herbal supplements.
Coupons and Discounts
You may be able to find online coupons or rebates online. Type in the name of your medication and the word “discount” or “coupon”. You can print these out and bring them with you to the pharmacy.
Use your Health Savings Account or Flexible Savings Account
If you are offered one of these plans through your work, take advantage of it and use it to pay for your medications with pre-tax dollars.
Find the Right Health Plan
If your employer has more than one health plan option, review which one is best to cover all of your expenses, including your medications, particularly if you are on a very pricey drug. For those who purchased insurance through the Affordable Care Act, consider your specific medications when choosing your coverage. If you are covered by Medicare, invest some time to look at all of your coverage options to determine which plan will save you the most money. Review your Medicare options each year during the enrollment period to see if your existing plan is still the best choice for you.
Getting Financial Help
If you cannot afford your prescriptions, there are options. For a list of options, see Financial Help for Prescription Medications in the ZaggoCare Resource Center.
Note: I updated this post on 3-11-19.