Published March 19th, 2020 by Stephanie
For some Americans, medication is something that is required regularly. Many people only need medicine when sick, as a means to cure an illness or manage pain after surgery. Others, unfortunately, have long term or even permanent conditions that require constant access to medication. People with diabetes or asthma, especially if diagnosed at an early age, are looking at decades of medication to manage a lifelong condition. The elderly may also enter a stage of their lives where they need medications for their twilight years to manage geriatric conditions.
Once medication becomes a regular, ongoing requirement, the costs, especially for prescription medication, can be a big drain on savings. Some people have the good fortune to receive perks from a fulltime job, such as health benefits that cover medication expenses. Others have signed on for health insurance policies that offer similar financial assistance, such as “co-pay,” where the insurance company subsidizes part of the purchase.
However, not everyone has access to these benefits. And for those that don’t, paying full price on a regular medication is something that can hurt savings over a long period. Fortunately, even for people who don’t have insurance, there are ways to save money on medication. Here are four ways to get the cheapest prescription drugs without insurance.
This is not always an available option, but when it is, it’s one of the best ways to save money. When a pharmaceutical company initially creates a new medication, only that company is allowed to manufacture and sell it. This, however, is only for a limited period of years. During the time, because the company is the only one making the medication, they can charge whatever price they like.
Once the patents on a formulation expire, other companies can make the same medication using the same ingredients. Acetylsalicylic acid, for example, was once only available as the brand “Aspirin.” Now other companies produce it, and they charge lower prices to remain competitive with the original “Aspirin” brand that still commands higher prices due to brand name recognition. If you’re not concerned with sticking to an original brand name and want the same formulation, and same benefits at a lower price, buy generic medication instead.
To promote new medications, pharmaceutical companies will sometimes provide special offers to doctors, who then make the judgment about whether to share these with patients or not. In some cases, if a new medication would help a patient, a doctor can then offer these coupons that carry a massive discount to make it easier for the patient to try, at a much lower cost, a treatment that may be of use.
Sometimes, however, doctors are so inundated with these coupons they may lose track of which ones they have available for patients to try. It’s always a good idea when visiting a family doctor or other physician to ask about the availability of relevant discount coupons.
Another smart way to save money prescription drugs is to take some time to research pricing. Medication is not “pegged” to a fixed price; there is no suggested retail price the way there is for consumer products like smartphones and light bulbs. So a pharmacy can set the price for medication as high or as low as it wants to, based on the location and financial situation.
This means that a pharmacy in an affluent neighborhood can inflate prices 100% or more on medication if they know wealthier customers will pay that price to avoid going out further. In the same way, less affluent neighborhoods may be assisted by their pharmacies, who price medication lower to ensure affordability for residents.
One way to save on prescription medication is to take some time to find out what the pricing is like in an area and find the pharmacies that offer the lowest pricing. Depending on mobility, you may find much lower prices if you’re willing to drive out further. Fortunately, researching the prices of different pharmacies is now much easier, since there are comparison shopping apps that list the prices of different medications at different pharmacies. So the homework required for this isn’t as bad as calling up each outlet to ask about their pricing.
Finally, applying for and using a discount card is one of the most cost-effective ways to save money. You can often get the cheapest prescription drugs without insurance by using a discount card. These cards are like coupons, except they are far more versatile. Instead of only applicable to one medication, and having to be surrendered upon usage, discount cards are always valid, provided your discount card is up to date, and the pharmacy you’re shopping at is affiliated with the program the discount card represents. So, for example, if you buy medicine primarily at Walgreens, Walgreens—for an annual membership fee—has a discount card that can always be applied to medication used here.
However, you may want a discount card that has more widespread applications than that, and there are options for this available. One, for example, is the USA Rx website. This discount card has a range of advantages going for it, such as the fact that it’s free, with no membership fees required to use it. Another advantage of this card is that it’s not tied to a single retailer the way Walgreens and Walmart cards are, that can only be used when buying medication at that specific retail chain. This card is valid in all 50 states and affiliated with over 60,000 pharmacies, including larger retail chains such as Target and smaller, owner-operated pharmacies that may be just around the corner.
The card is easy to use as well since you can sign up for it online, and then print out the card for yourself, to use when you make a purchase, or keep the digital image of the card on your phone and present it at the time of purchase. Either choice will be recognized and validated when you buy your medication.