Fact Checked

Are You Taking Advantage Of Prescription Discount Programs?

AreYouTakingAdvantageOfPrescriptionDiscountPrograms?The typical American works hard is careful with money, but there are some occasions where money, no matter how exorbitant, has to be spent. It’s easy—and even admirable—to exercise some financial restraint when it comes to recreational spending, like dinners at nice restaurants, or “shopping therapy” at the mall, these are, after all, niceties. But when a doctor is telling you that you or a family member needs surgery or life-saving medical treatment, there’s no real option to pinch pennies here; the money must be spent if you want yourself or your family member to recover safely.

Medicine and medical treatment, however, are far from cheap. The USA doesn’t have the same kind of “global” medical coverage for all major medical events that countries like Canada do. Some Americans have been lucky enough to work for businesses that reward full-time employees with medical benefits that include covering costs of care. Other Americans have done well enough in their work that they can afford comprehensive medical insurance that can even subsidize some medications costs through a co-pay system.

For the rest of us, however, we can only “ride out” the expensive cost of medications because the illness is temporary, so the medication, as expensive as it may be, is a limited expense. That all changes, however, if you or a family member—especially a child—is diagnosed with a chronic medical condition. Asthma, diabetes, and heart conditions have no cure; their symptoms can only be managed for the remainder of a lifetime. And if the person just diagnosed is a child, that’s decades of need to meet the additional expense of taking medica-tion.

In this kind of situation, there’s no “pinching pennies” to try and cut down on the amount of medication required to save money. You need the medication, and you need to pay whatever is asked for. However, you do have some options about how much you pay, and while it’s not possible to cut down on the medication required, it is possible to pay less by joining prescription discount programs.

What Are Prescription Discount Programs?

AreYouTakingAdvantageOfPrescriptionDiscountPrograms?Prescription discount programs are initiatives run by different groups that offer consumers a chance to pay a reduced price on prescription medication. Most of the time, these discount programs operate by offering some coupons or discount cards to the interested consumer. That document must then be shown to a pharmacist at the time of making a purchase, and once the pharmacist sees the coupon or card, the discount will be applied, and a lower price can be paid.

However, as noted, these are prescription discount programs. There is more than one, and not every pharmacist will honor every discount. A pharmacist’s ability to grant a discount is entirely dependent on whether that phar-macist is an affiliate of the program the discount coupon or card is associated with.

How Are Discounts Possible?

Applying a discount to prescription medication is based on two factors. Pharmacists can price medication at whatever they like, and they base much of their pricing decisions on the money they spend making their pur-chase from a pharmacy benefits manager.

A pharmacy benefits manager, or PMB, is the middleman between the pharmacy companies that manufacture medication, and the pharmacies that sell them. PMBs know both the market environment, as well as the needs of both pharmaceutical companies and pharmacies serving the public. The PMB often negotiates the deals be-tween these two groups, so it’s possible for organizations, such as certain retailers themselves, negotiate deals with PMBs to buy a huge enough volume of medication that lower pricing is in effect due to the volume of the purchase.

When that happens, the organization or retailer that worked out the deal with the PMB can now price medication at whatever they like, without necessarily hurting their profits, as they got a better deal on the purchase.

Finding The Right Program

There are a variety of different prescription discount programs available to Americans, depending on different personal circumstances. Your area of residence and your income status, for example, may qualify you for po-tential state or municipal operated discount programs for medication. You should always check locally for such initiatives, and see if you qualify.

Another possible route is joining prescription discount programs that are offered by larger retailers. Walgreens, one of the largest pharmacy chains in America, has a prescription discount program, but, as to be expected, the discounts only apply when medication is purchased at a Walgreens outlet. Another condition of the program is that an annual membership fee must be purchased and paid for years to remain valid. Walmart has a similar program available, again, valid only at Walmart outlets, but their program is free.

A Different Option

For people that don’t want to limit themselves to prescription discount programs that are only valid with one retailer, another option is to do some research online and go with a more “branch agnostic” program. One such solution is the USA Rx website, which is not affiliated with only one retailer. Unlike Walgreens, that is lim-ited to only 9000 outlets, or Walmart, which is a bit more at 11000, the Rx card is available in all states, includ-ing Hawaii and Alaska, and is recognized at over 60000 pharmacies including large retailers like Target and small, owner-operated pharmacies just down the street. Best of all, this is one of those prescription discount programs that are free. You don’t even need to print the card out; you can present the digital image from your phone or tablet and still have the discount honored.

So if you’re interested in discounts on your medication for anywhere between 10%-75% off, look into a prescription discount program. There are plenty of ways to save money on your medication without compromising on the medication itself. You need to do a bit more research and be diligent in your search, as these types of arrangements aren’t the type of marketing announcements that the pharmaceutical industry wants to promote widely.

Published December 18th, 2019 by Stephanie Clegg
Fact Checked by Chris Riley

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