Current estimates show that there are over 46 million uninsured Americans and about 25 million under-insured Americans. Sadly, this causes many people to go without much-needed medications leading to prolonged illness or worsening of disease. Often, it is the elderly, who statistically have lower incomes and higher prescription costs, that suffer.
As with many such issues, education is power. Below are 10 ways that people can get help in covering the costs of their much-needed medications:
1. Shop Around. Each pharmacy sets their own prices. For example, bargain stores such as Wal-Mart, Costco, and Sam’s Club all have pharmacies and if you call around, you will find that you can actually find prescriptions drugs at fairly different prices depending on the pharmacy. Also, in most areas, you do not have to be a member of Costco or Sam’s Club to use the pharmacy.
2. Buy Generic. Not all drugs are available as generic prescriptions, but for the ones that are, the cost savings is tremendous. Ask your doctor if a generic drug is available for your prescriptions, but also know that it is not the exact same thing. Each generic drug maker is allowed to use different “fillers” and they may affect how the active drug ingredients are absorbed into your body. If your doctor recommends a generic drug, ask the pharmacist if anyone has had any complaints or reactions using the generic versus the brand name drug.
3. Get Free Samples from Your Doctor. Just a few days ago (and very timely for this article) I stopped by my doctor’s office to ask if they had any samples for a prescription that I take that does not have a generic substitute. I walked out with a one month supply and a $5 coupon for my next purchase for a total savings of $80!
4. Check the Drug Company Website. Sometimes the drug companies will offer coupons for their prescriptions. If you take an expensive drug, make a point to check their website monthly for any such special offers.
5. Get a Prescription Plan. Many pharmacies offer prescription plans where you can get a discount on generic prescriptions if you order a higher quantity (such as a 3 month supply). I use the CVS plan and we pay $9.99 for a 3 month supply of our generic prescriptions which gives me huge savings.
There are also outside companies that offer prescription-only plans, and these can save you some money on your prescriptions. The best thing to do before enrolling in such a program is to calculate the estimated savings versus the cost of the program. Just ask these companies what the cost would be under whichever plan you are considering and do a quick comparison to what the costs would be otherwise.
6. Ask Your Pharmacist for Help. One of the most enlightening conversations I had about saving money was with a local CVS pharmacist. She shared with me some options to discuss with my doctor about alternative medicines to the one that I take, which currently does not have a generic substitute. And just for asking, she also gave me a discount card that was issued by our local government.
7. Get a Part Time Job with Benefits. There are a handful of companies that offers health benefits to their part time employees. Starbucks is probably one of the most notable companies for this. These offerings are always subject to change but companies such as UPS, Home Depot, Nordstrom, Barnes & Noble, and Whole Foods have also been known to offer health benefits to part time employees. Each employer will have different criteria such as waiting periods or amount of hours needed to work to qualify. In some cases, your requirements can be fulfilled on the weekends, allowing your part time job to not interfere with your full time job.
8. Medicare. If you are over 65, you should qualify for Medicare which has a specific provision for prescription coverage. This does not however equate to free prescriptions for the elderly.
9. Medicaid. This government program is available to low income residents and each state sets its own standards for coverage and eligibility. You can visit the Medicaid site and select your state to see what coverage is available to you.
10. Mail Order Prescriptions. Some health plans will allow you to order your prescriptions via mail which will offer you savings. As a word of caution, only use mail-order prescription services offered in conjunction with your insurance provider as it is illegal to import drugs from other countries (including Canada and Mexico) to the United States.
I hope you have found this helpful, and most of all I hope you are able to save lots of money based on what I have shared. Do you have any additional ways to save money on prescriptions? Feel free to post any comments or questions below.
(photo credit: Shutterstock)