Fact Checked

How Can I Save Money on Prescriptions?

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) National Center for Health Statistics, nearly 50 percent of Americans took at least one prescription drug within the past 30 days from 2013-2016. If that sounds like a high percentage, consider that approximately 24 percent of people in the United States took three or more prescriptions, while 12.6 percent used five or more prescriptions. It’s no secret that the cost of prescription drugs is rising by the day, leaving many people scrambling to come up with the cash to afford their medication costs. Approximately 80 million Americans are uninsured or underinsured, meaning they do not have prescription drug coverage, but even among insured Americans, prices still might be out of reach. Insurance companies often refuse to cover different drugs or have coverage limits on the number of benefits you can receive in a given year or over your lifetime. If you find yourself wondering “How can I save money on prescriptions?” take comfort in knowing that there are lots of ways to save on health care regardless of your insured status. 

Ask for Generic Medications

Saving money on your prescriptions doesn’t start when you enter the local pharmacy to pick up your medication. The first thing to do to save money on prescriptions is to ask your doctor if there are any generic options for your existing medications at lower prices. Generic drugs use the same active ingredients and undergo the same rigorous testing as the brand name medications, so they’re just as safe and effective and produced at the same level of quality with no extra risk of side effects. Brand name medications are more expensive for several reasons, including the monopoly that they hold on the market during the active period of their patent. Additionally, pharmaceutical companies that make brand name drugs pay for all of the research and marketing that goes into developing a new drug, and they recoup the cost by setting the prices high. Generic drugs do not have to pay for these same expenses, and by the time they are approved, there are usually several competitors to the brand name drug. Therefore, the drug costs less and you can get it at a low-cost. Generic drugs use different inactive ingredients that affect characteristics like their color, texture, or flavoring, but they provide the same level of treatment as brand name drugs. Generic drugs aren’t available for every medication and they won’t be appropriate for every patient in every situation but when available, generic medications can save you a fortune on your health care costs. 

Get a Pharmacy Discount Card

No matter what your insured status, you can save money on prescriptions by getting a pharmacy discount card. Although some people confuse pharmacy discount cards with insurance, they only similarity between the two is that they can help you save on prescriptions. Pharmacy discount programs have no eligibility requirements and are free. To sign up, all you need to do is provide basic contact information. There’s no medical history needed, no forms to fill out, and no cost. Pharmacy discount cards apply to all Food and Drug Administration, or FDA-approved brand name and generic medications, offering savings of up to 75 percent. Regardless of whether your insurance company covers a medication, your pharmacy discount card will definitely be able to offer you savings. While you might not get a free prescription, it can save you a lot of money in the long run by offering the lowest prices. People with insurance plans that have strict coverage limits or a high deductible can use pharmacy discount cards to ensure that they can afford their medication all year. The other great thing about pharmacy discount cards is that they work at over 60,000 pharmacies nationwide, and you can compare prices of medications at pharmacies in your area to find the best deal. Pharmacy discount cards offer reduced prices on medication at no additional cost to you - just pay the negotiated price of your medication. People of all ages qualify for pharmacy discount cards regardless of their citizenship or legal status, and one card covers the entire family, including your pets!

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Apply Your Insurance

Not everyone has good health insurance, but if you’re one of the lucky ones who does, make sure you always check the prices your insurance can offer you on your prescription medications. After all, you’re paying for the benefits, so you might as well use them.  Unfortunately, many insurance plans do not cover certain brand name medications, have coverage limits, or have high deductibles, which can limit your potential for savings depending on your plan. Choosing a generic medication can increase the likelihood that your drug will be covered by insurance, but it’s not a guarantee. Make sure to ask your pharmacist to check the prices of your medication with your insurance coverage, with the cash price, and with other savings options prior to purchasing, as you may be able to receive additional savings outside of your insurance. 

Seek Out Coupons and Rebates

You might not think of clipping coupons when you think of prescription savings, but some manufacturers actually do offer coupons for their drugs. Typically, coupons are only available for brand name drugs and not for generic medications, but if you have a medical need to use the brand name drug or there is no generic drug available, coupons can mean big savings. The best way to find out about coupons and rebates is to ask your doctor if they are aware of any existing discounts or coupon codes that may be available since coupons sometimes accompany samples that your doctors receive. If they aren’t aware of any, check the manufacturer website, use their mobile app, or do a quick online search. 

Look for Patient Assistance Programs

When new medications are first introduced to the market or are extremely costly, some drug manufacturers set up patient assistance programs for their medications. Patient rebate programs typically require that patients meet certain eligibility criteria in order to qualify for the programs, including a household income below a certain level, uninsured or underinsured, or have insurance that does not cover the medication. Patient assistance programs, like the Partnership for Prescription Assistance, vary in length and eligibility criteria, so make sure you read the fine print. Check out the manufacturer’s website to see if they offer patient assistance programs and determine the eligibility requirements.

Published July 16th, 2020 by Bridget Reed
Fact Checked by Chris Riley

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