America spends the most on prescription drugs compared to all other countries. According to the American Academy of Actuaries, in 2016 Americans spent more than $329 billion on prescription meds. On average, Americans spend $1,200 per person on prescription meds. Americans struggle to pay for their medication due to their high costs. Many patients who do not have insurance or have little insurance choose not to fill their prescriptions because they cannot afford it. But, there are many ways to cut back on costs for your prescription meds. It is often much easier to cut back on costs that many people think. Here are 10 tips that can help you save on prescriptions.
1. Request Generic or Low-Cost Drugs
The best way to save on prescription is to buy the generic brand of the drug you are looking for if available.
Generally, generics cost much less and often contain the same active ingredients and are manufactured the same way as brand name drugs. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires generic drugs to meet the same standards of quality as brand name drugs.
Keep in mind that some generic medications are not the same as their brand-name counterparts, so it is very important to always check with your pharmacist if the generic medication is available.
If unavailable, your pharmacist or physician may prescribe other medications that will work just as well at a reduced price.
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, generic medications cost on average 80-85% less than their brand name counterparts. If the cost of medication is important to you, the FDA recommends that you talk to your pharmacist or physician and discuss your concerns so that they can find the lowest cost prescription drug available for you.
2. Check Your Insurance and What It Covers
It is important to know beforehand what your insurance covers.
You should be able to answer questions like how much your co-payments cost for prescription drugs? Is there a formulary for your plan? How will you pay out of pocket costs and expenses?
Your insurance plan will include a list of prescription drugs that they cover and do not cover. This is called a formulary. Formularies have different types of coverage for prescription drugs and are chosen based on three factors: how well they work, how safe they are, and how much they cost.
To get the best value out of your plan, be sure to choose prescription medication on your plan’s formulary as this will help you save money.
3. Use a Preferred Pharmacy
Filling your prescription at a preferred pharmacy can save you more money on your prescription as preferred pharmacies have an agreement to charge a lower cost for your prescription.
Most Medicare prescription drug plans also use preferred pharmacies offering a lower copay for a certain list of drugs.
Beneficiaries can enroll in a plan and get their prescriptions filled at any preferred pharmacy to lower their out-of-pocket costs. A list of your insurance company’s preferred pharmacies should be listed on their website offering a lower co-pay.
4. Order a 90-Day Supply
Another great way to save money on your prescriptions is to order a large supply that will last you a while such as a 90-day supply. Take advantage of a mail-order service for a 90-day supply and check your insurance company’s plan to see if a mail-order service is covered for free and how to enroll in it.
Check with your pharmacist or insurance company’s pharmacy plan to see if your medications are available in a 90-day supply. Ordering your prescriptions in bulk will not only save you money, but you will also spend less time waiting for refills on your prescription.
Another benefit of ordering a 90-day supply is that your prescriptions can be delivered directly to you, right to your doorstep and you can request a refill online if you need to which provides more convenience for you.
If a 90-day supply if unavailable, opt for a 30-day supply to help you save money as well. Do note that it’s important to know that your medication works well for you before you order a 90-day supply.
If it’s a new prescription, you may want to consider ordering a 30-day supply at first and gradually increase to a 90-day supply once you are certain that the medication works well for you.
5. Enroll in a Pharmacy Rewards Program
Many pharmacies especially larger drugstore chains such as CVS, Walgreens, Walmart, Rite Aid, etc. offer some type of rewards program that is free to enroll in.
The way these programs work is that every time you fill a prescription, get a flu shot, or check your blood pressure in a kiosk at their store, you accumulate reward points. The reward points that you accumulate can be redeemed for discounts on other health products and services which helps you save money overall.
However, the rewards program is not available in all states so be sure to check with your local pharmacy to see if they offer some type of a rewards program.
Other major retail stores that offer pharmaceutical services such as Kroger, Tom Thumb, Kmart, Costco, and Target may also offer some type of rewards program as well so be sure to check.
6. Apply for a Patient Assistance Program
If you’re looking to save money on your prescriptions as someone who is uninsured, consider applying for a patient assistance program (PAP).
These programs were specifically created to help those who are uninsured or under-insured. Patient assistance programs are run by pharmaceutical manufacturers and these companies make their products available to the public.
Pharmaceutical manufacturers often sponsor patient assistance programs to provide financial assistance or drug-free products to those in need who cannot afford their medications and will subsequently have to pay out of pocket.
This program helps patients get access to drugs for little or no cost. To enroll and see if you qualify, all you need to do is meet these three basic requirements:
- Be a permanent, legal resident in Canada
- Provide valid proof that you are uninsured or under-insured
- Meet the income eligibility requirements
Each program is different and all you need to do to sign up is to call the program or enroll online. The program will require you to submit forms from your healthcare provider and other forms like your taxes, income, and residence status to show proof that you are eligible and qualify.
Keep in mind that there may be certain limits on how much medication you can receive or certain conditions on how long the program lasts.
7. Split Pills
If you are looking for an innovative way to save money on your prescriptions, consider splitting pills.
You can ask your physician or pharmacist if your prescription comes in a higher dose that is safe to split. Splitting pills in half is a common practice that some healthcare providers and doctors use and recommend to patients who need to save money.
Splitting pills can save you up to 50 percent of the cost of your medication, meaning you are literally dividing everything in half including the cost.
With pill splitting, you are buying two doses of medication for the cost of one which is the equivalent of getting more months of medications for less. For example, you will get a two month worth supply of your medication for the price of a one month supply.
Many patients wonder if splitting their medication is a safe practice, but it actually is and proves to be a great economical choice. However, it is very important that you check with your doctor or pharmacist first because not all medications can be split safely.
Keep in mind that some drugstores and pharmacies do not opt for pill splitting so it’s important to check which ones do and which ones do not. Some doctors argue that pill splitting regimens have better health outcomes so you may want to consider doing your research on pill splitting to discover the best option for you.
Talking to your doctor or pharmacist is the best way to decide if pill splitting is safe and right for you.
8. Use an Independent Pharmacy
Choosing an independent pharmacy is one of the best ways to help you save on your prescriptions.
The cost of prescriptions at independent pharmacies are usually priced at a more discounted rate than chain pharmacies. Pharmacists at a mom and pop pharmacies are generally able to offer you more discounts and provide you with financial assistance to help you pay for your prescriptions at a lower cost.
If you are struggling to pay for your medication, talk to your local pharmacist, and voice your concern.
For the uninsured and under-insured, using an independent pharmacy is much more cost-effective for those patients and they should avoid using major retail pharmacy chain stores all together if possible. Not only will using an independent pharmacy save you money but they also generally offer better service.
Independent pharmacies are more patient-centered focus, which means better customer service. Independent pharmacies have more of a family setting where patients really get to know their pharmacist.
There are more patient and pharmacist one on one interaction, especially during health consultations which allow patients to establish trust and build relationships with their pharmacist.
Another great reason to use an independent pharmacy instead includes reduced wait time and more personalized services. Research shows that independent pharmacies have much shorter wait times and faster service than chain pharmacies.
Chain pharmacies are known for attracting larger crowds which in turn means longer lines and longer wait time. Also, independent pharmacies offer more personalized services such as free home deliveries, prescription compounding, custom prescription orders, and preventive care services like medication management, health screenings, prescription consultations, and immunizations.
9. Use a Flexible Spending Account
Consider using a flexible spending account (FSA) to save money on your medication.
If you have a healthcare plan through your job, you can use your FSA to pay for your deductibles, copayments, prescription medications, and for other healthcare products and services. Also, as a bonus, using a flexible spending account can help you reduce your taxes.
A flexible spending account is a special account where you put money into the account that you will use to pay for out-of-pocket healthcare costs such as your prescription medication. With the FSA, you do not pay taxes on the money that you put into the account, therefore you will be paying for your medication with pre-tax dollars.
Sometimes, your employers may make contributions to your FSA.
If you are interested in signing up for an FSA, contact your employer and ask them for information on how to sign up for the program. Many jobs are now offering FSA as it offers many benefits for patients to pay for all medical expenses, including prescriptions, with pre-tax dollars.
To use your FSA, submit a claim through your employer with proof of your medical expenses. You will also need to submit a statement of proof showing no coverage in your insurance plan. Once, approved, you will then receive reimbursement for your costs and expenses.
10. Stay on Top of Your Prescription
Staying on top of your prescriptions is vital to your health.
Although it is great to save money on your medication, do not skip doses to make your pills last longer. Make sure you stay on top of your health and take all prescribed medication.
Often, many patients will stop taking their required medication due to the costs of their prescriptions, but this is actually doing more danger and harm than good. A 2018 NPR-Truven Health Analytics Health Poll revealed that one-third of adults have stopped taking their prescriptions due to the high cost of their medication.
As a result, further complications can happen if patients skip their meds. This can result in higher costs down the line for medical expenses.
Stay on top of your prescription by talking to your doctor or pharmacist about costs for your meds.
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- American Academy of Actuaries: Prescription Drug Spending in the U.S. Health Care System – actuary.org
- Brand Name Vs. Generic Drugs: Is One Better Than the Other? – mayoclinic.org
- Facts About Generic Drugs – fda.gov
- NPR-Truven Health Analytics Health Poll: Why Do People Stop Taking Their Meds? Cost is Just One Reason – nrp.org
- Patient Assistance Program Primer – benefitscanada.com
- Using a Flexible Spending Account – heathcare.gov