Americans pay a staggering $457 billion annually for prescription medications, and this price continues to rise by as much as 8 percent per year. This is especially problematic for seniors who are on a fixed income because insurance and Medicare often doesn’t cover everything.
The average annual prescription drug cost per person is $1,370. However, anyone who needs specialty medication will run up a much bigger bill. Every year, there are more than 500,000 Americans who each spend approximately $50,000 to take life-saving medication. Instead of merely accepting this, you can utilize several options to reduce the cost of your prescriptions.
1. Research Drug Prices and Discuss Them with Your Doctor
Many similar medications have extremely different prices. As a result, your insurance provider may cover most of one drug but only half of another. Your doctor can help you get the best price by giving you at least two to three similar options to explore. After you check with your insurance company, ask your physician to write a prescription for the most affordable medication.
2. Compare Pharmacies to Find the Best Price
It might seem odd, but every pharmacy is able to charge a different price for medication. You may also be able to get a discount exclusively at one pharmacy through programs offered by organizations such as the AARP. Before you fill a prescription, always check your local pharmacies to ensure you get the lowest possible price.
3. Ask Your Doctor if a Generic Medication is Available
Most physicians will write prescriptions for the generic equivalent of the necessary medication, but don’t assume that they’ve done this for you. Always ask if you can get a generic medication to reduce your expenses.
4. Ask Your Doctor for Free Samples
Do you need to start taking a new medication that’s cost prohibitive? It’s impossible to know how you will react to a new prescription drug, so be sure to ask your doctor for samples before you fill an expensive script. Not only will this keep you from inadvertently wasting money on medication you cannot tolerate but if the drug does work, your doctor might be willing to give you samples during each visit.
5. Utilize Discount Prescription Programs
Even if you typically use Medicare or private insurance, you may be able to save money by buying your medication completely out of pocket. The trick is to use a prescription discount service such as GoodRx. By visiting the GoodRx site, you can look up the non-insurance cost for any medication and receive a list of the cheapest nearby pharmacies. The price listed will require you to provide a free GoodRx card, coupon or discount code. Most pharmacies participate in programs of this nature, and you may be able to save as much as 80 percent.
6. Ask the Pharmaceutical Company for Help
Did you know that almost all pharmaceutical companies have assistance programs available for low-income seniors? Seniors and others on a limited income can apply for patient assistance. Individuals using Medicare who qualify for a low-income subsidy will usually end up paying no more than $8.25 per month.
7. Check for Any Applicable State Subsidy Programs
Not every state offers subsidies for low-income residents, but many have a program for prescription medications. This is intended to take care of most expenses that Medicare Part D doesn’t cover. By combining Medicare with a state subsidy, you may end up paying as little as $0 for each eligible prescription.
8. Order a 90-Day Supply at the Pharmacy
Many pharmacies, including Walgreen’s and CVS, allow their eligible customers to order a 90-day prescription supply in-store. Your insurance company may provide an incentive for going this route. It varies from drug to drug, but in some cases, you can save as much as $30 by switching to a three-month refill cycle.
9. Mail Order Your Medication
If you don’t want to go to the store for your medication, you can check into mail ordering a 90-day supply. This is the most convenient option for many people, and it’s often even cheaper than picking up a three-month’s supply at the pharmacy. As an added bonus, going the mail order route will make it easier to ensure you always have medication on hand so that you don’t have to drive to the pharmacy during inclement weather.
10. Apply for the Extra Help Program Through Medicare
The Social Security Administration may help you cut back on prescription related expenses if you currently get Medicare and you qualify for their Extra Help program. Current qualifications require you to have an annual income of no more than $18,090 as an individual or $24,360 if you’re married and live with your spouse. After you get approved, Extra Help will reduce the cost of most generic medications to $3.35 and brand-name drugs will drop to $8.35.
The 10 items listed above focused heavily on how to reduce the cost of any existing medications. Another method that can save you money is reducing your odds of needing any additional prescriptions. Although you cannot control everything about your health due to genetics and other factors, you can give yourself the best chance of avoiding new health issues by exercising regularly, eating a nutritious diet filled with vegetables, fruits and whole grains, getting enough sleep and going to the doctor for preventative care.