The cost of healthcare is a rising worry for Americans. Seems like the everyday cost of medication is going upwards. For people with lower earning it’s becoming more and more out of reach to provide for better care for patients. The health insurance premium is rising and out-of-pocket expenses are also rising. The big question is, how can we reduce the cost of prescription medication?
Even with more affordable health care provisions individuals can still end up having relatively high out-of-pocket expenses, a good deal of which are due to prescription costs. The US is a popular market for new and expensive drugs due to its size and the relative ease of getting drugs into the marketplace once they have been FDA approved.
So is there any way you can avoid spending a fortune on medication that you need?
While researching for this post, I chanced upon FDA’s advice saving money on prescription drugs. They started with a warning that buying drugs from the overseas and online route is a risky proposition. Firstly, those drugs are not FDA approved and hence may have side effects and secondly, they may cause more harm than good.
FDA itself solicit consumers for the generic medication. Per FDA – “Generic drugs have the same active ingredients and effects as brand-name drugs, but they can cost 30 percent to 80 percent less“.
Ways to cut prescription drug cost
There are some definite ways to cut your prescription medication cost. Let’s get started with them.
Know the drug cost before ordering
All other methods This is an important first step towards cutting drug costs. Know the number. Once you determine the price by calling your pharmacy, search for prices on reputed online pharmacies, even CVS, Walgreen, and RiteAid have their online pharmacies. See where the price is lower.
Then as a next step, check your prescription Medication provider’s website. See if they have some discount medication that matches your symptoms. If it does, call up your doctor and ask for his opinion, if you can take those alternate cheaper medication, you will save a big amount of money. Do remember your prescription drug provider may be different than your health insurance provider.
Our health insurance provider is Aetna but we get drug benefits from Express Scripts.
Adjust your FSA/HSA account
Everyone with an FSA/HSA account should implement this technique. Most of the medication is taken routinely, especially for the elderly. At the beginning of the year, if you can determine drug costs for the whole year, you can contribute to your FSA or HSA account accordingly.
When you pay from FSA/HSA account towards your pills, it’s your pretax money.
Let’s explain this with an example – Let’s say you earn $1000 gross pay and your estimated drug bill is $200. After-tax you get $750 (being in 25% tax bracket) in hand. So you get $550 to pay for your other expenses, after deducting a drug cost of $200.
On the other hand, if you contribute that $200 in FSA or HSA account, then you pay only 25% percent of $800 in taxes. So after tax, you get $600 to pay for other expenses. While you have $200 in health account intact.
Be honest with your doctor
If you’re struggling to afford the cost of your prescribed medication speaks to your doctor. He or she is the best person to be able to advise on what cheaper alternatives may be available.
If you don’t want to approach your physician then a pharmacist will often be willing to talk to you about your concerns.
Be upfront and be open, if you can’t afford then let it be known. You’re not alone every day people ask their doctors for low-cost medication. Ask your doctor if there’s a generic available if it doesn’t then ask if there’s a similar generic which may be suitable in your condition. There are many conditions where alternate medications are available.
You even ask for samples, that can save you on at least one refill cost. Almost always the doctor’s office has a sample of medication that doctors prescribe. They don’t pay for it, they get it for free. When you take one, they’ll most certainly get another one for free from manufacturers.
Prescription assistance program
If you don’t have coverage for your prescription drugs you may be able to get help from a prescription assistance program. These programs bring together professionals and patients in an attempt to help people get the medication that they need.
Not only with medicare, but PAPs are also available for younger patients with hardship as well. Most pharmaceutical companies offer PAP through their website. Once you get your prescription, ask for the manufacturer and visit the manufacturer’s PAP page below. You may get lucky!
Think about going generic
A lot of the brand name drugs on the market are very highly-priced. Often there are generic alternatives available at a reduced cost. These generic medications are FDA approved and are therefore a completely safe alternative.
Again a medical professional should be able to advise if there is a generic drug available for your condition. If there isn’t one it may be worth asking if there is a different drug that you could be talking. First, ask your doctor, then ask your pharmacist.
You can split or combine dosage
You should never mess with the prescribed dose of your medication but you can ask the doctor to optimize the dosage so that you’re taking it at one time during the day; this can help reduce your overall costs.
For example, if you’re required to take 50mg strength, then ask your pharmacist if there’s any cheaper dosage available. If you get the same drug of 100mg strength, which cost less, compared to 2 tablets of 50mg. You can have half of the tablet each time you take your medication. Make sure splitting or combing is safe in your condition, do talk to pharmacist and doctor.
Can you buy it in bulk online?
As with many things it can be a lot cheaper to buy the prescription drugs you need online. You can shop around for the most reasonably priced source. Depending on what health plan you have you may be able to order several months’ worth of your medication at a big discount.
There’s no doubt that prescription drugs can be very expensive and maybe it seems tempting to miss the odd dose. This is never a good idea as it adversely affects your health. If you’re having difficulties affording your medication speak to your doctor or pharmacist at first. You may find that they will have a solution to the problem for you. You can even do some of your research so that you have some alternatives to suggest to the professionals when you speak to them.
Leverage Medicare’s outpatient prescription drug coverage
Per FDA – “This new program comes at a time when five out of six people aged 65 and older are taking at least one medication, and almost half of all elderly people take three or more“.
There are ways to reduce the cost of the drug through medicare. They listed four main steps to reduce drug cost but they’re mostly for people with lower-income.
- Exploring national and community-based programs – Sites like benefits checkup, helps millions of low-income patients get their medication. There are organizations for rare diseases which can help you pay for your drugs.
- Looking at State Pharmaceutical Assistance Programs (SPAPs) – You can check your eligibility on the SPAP website.
- Manufacturer’s Pharmaceutical Assistance Programs – Cal 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) to find out if you’re eligible.
- Applying for Extra Help paying for your Medicare prescription drugs – If you have Medicare with limited income and resources, you may contact Social Security for prescription drug help.
Another powerful technique experts suggest is, review and compare the Medicare part D program, for lower out of pocket expenses.
Use coupons and discount cards
Yes true, you can get coupons for prescription medication. Sometimes you get a discount for switching pharmacy. It’s easy to avail when you have multiple pharmacies near-by. In our area, Publix offers $25 straight off when you transfer your prescription to them.
The best way to get a coupon is always by asking your doctor’s office before leaving. Ask your doctor first and check with a nurse as well. Don’t be shy it’s your money. There’s a high chance that you get a coupon, manufacturers often drop them at the doctor’s office.
You can always try for pharmacy coupons, CVS has a webpage where you can get active coupons. CVS Extra Care card can save you some money.
Walgreens has a Prescription savings club, with a fee of $35 per year per family, you can save money on prescription and over-the-counter medication. You can use it when you don’t have insurance or your insurance doesn’t adequately cover your medication
Rite aid has an Rx savings program, you can walk to your nearest RiteAid pharmacy and sign-up.
Free prescription drugs
If you’re lucky, you can get drugs for free. Sometimes pharmacies, your insurance provider, may throw in free drugs. Here’s a list of pharmacies that offer some free prescription medication on a certain drug.
Take good care of your pills
When you are cured, let’s say from an Allergy, Don’t throw the unused medication, store the box in a cool and dry place. If the condition re-occurs and the doctor prescribes the same medication and dosage, check if the old stored medication is expired. If it didn’t, you can use the pills without reordering them.
Sometimes the doctor may prescribe a different pill second time, so call back your doctor’s office and check if you can take the one you have already.
It is bad practice to store medication in the bathroom or near the washbasin. Moisture is bad for the pills.
Before you head to your pharmacy, read this other article on saving drug costs. Even with all these ways to save drug costs, you’ll have to pay significant money on prescription medication each year. The best method to cut this cost is by maintaining healthy habits, managing stress and managing fitness, as the saying goes – “prevention is better than cure”.
Maintain healthy habits, eat healthily, exercise and go for regular checkups. Your policy should have an annual free health checkup, use that today. Stay well, readers!