The cost of prescription drugs today is a serious problem for many including retirees and lower-income Americans. After receiving your pharmacy bill, you may need a new round of meds – at the very least, some non-prescription antacids.
However, with some effort, you can save significant amounts of money on your medications. Here are five potential paths to prescription savings.
- Work with Your Doctor – People tend to shy away from the subject of prescription costs during their doctor visits – perhaps with concerns about taking the doctor's time, or an unwillingness to discuss abilities to pay. It is not uncommon for "scripts" to be unfilled or unclaimed once the cost is known, and doctors would rather help you than see you refuse medicines for cost reasons.
Do not be afraid to ask for samples to help, or for less expensive options. There may be a separate brand or a generic equivalent that works as well. Another option is to ask for double-strength pills and take half pills – if the prescription comes in a splittable form. There may even be an over-the-counter alternative.
At any rate, work with your doctor to find cost savings. Your physician is your ally, not your adversary.
- Ask for Generics – According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the average generic brand is 15-20% of the cost of brand-name drugs. Generic drugs must also meet the same FDA standards as brand name drugs, so they should be equally safe.
- Medicare Part D – If you have Medicare Part D drug coverage, you have an open enrollment period every year from mid-October to mid-December that gives you an opportunity to review and switch plans if necessary.
As both your plans and your medications change, you should reconsider your coverage to see if it still fits. You may be able to save quite a bit of money with a plan that has a higher premium but covers drugs that your current plan does not.
- Investigate Assistance Programs – A wide variety of drug assistance programs are available for seniors and qualifying low-income consumers.
Many states run subsidy programs to assist their low-income residents with prescription drugs – links to programs in various states may be found at the National Conference of State Legislatures website at http://www.ncsl.org/research/health/state-pharmaceutical-assistance-programs.aspx.
The Extra Help program at the Social Security Administration can assist qualified low-income seniors covered by Medicare. Information on Extra Help may be found at the Social Security website.
Finally, drug companies themselves run Patient Assistance Programs (PAPs) to help those who cannot afford medications. Information is available at the Partnership for Prescription Alliance, as well as Rx Assist.
- Shop Around – Prices can vary between pharmacies, and it is always wise to comparison-shop for equivalent prescription drugs. However, make sure you are comparing equivalent doses when comparing prices.
Online pharmacies are fine as well, but make sure they are VIPPS-certified (Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites). This accreditation comes through the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) and gives you a level of assurance that the site is legitimate and its medications are safe.
Whether you purchase online or at a brick-and-mortar pharmacy, it is best to stick with one choice. Ordering from different sites can lead to potentially dangerous drug interactions that may not be noticed until too late. Ordering all of your meds from a single pharmacy can cause a warning to be raised when needed.
These are just a few of the ways you can root out savings on your prescription drugs and find better uses for your money. However, if you already bought those antacids, hang on to them. You will probably need them when you get your health insurance bill.
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