When you take as many medications as I do, you realize how fast the cost of the prescriptions can add up. Over the years as my health has continued to decline, due to Rheumatoid Arthritis and other associated health issues, my medication costs have increased. And since we're on a tight budget in our household, I've had to find ways to make our money go further and reduce costs in any way I can. So today I thought I'd share a few of my tips and tricks for saving money on prescriptions with you.
1. Use Your Health Insurance Mail Order Program
Almost all insurance companies have a mail order program available to their members. By using their services, you can save anywhere from 15 - 33 percent on your total cost for a 90 day supply of medication. Many programs allow you to fill a 30 day supply locally, so you can start on it right away, and then mail in a 90 day prescription. Just ask your doctor to write two prescriptions for you, one for 30 days and one for 90 days. Many mail order pharmacies allow you to order refills online and offer free shipping, making it convenient to use. The only downside is that they rarely let you use coupons or co-pay assistance cards with you orders.
2. Look for Coupons, Free Trials and Co-Pay Assistance cards for Brand Name Medications
If your doctor prescribes a brand name medication and there are no alternatives, the first thing you should do is go to the website for that particular medication. Many sites offer you savings which include free trial coupons (usually good for 7 - 30 days). These coupons can save you money on each prescription or co-pay assistance cards which pay for a portion of your normal co-pay, thereby reducing your overall cost. These savings can sometimes save you MORE than using mail order, so it's a good idea to compare your local pharmacy cost per month using the savings card against your 90 day prescription by mail order costs. Be sure to read all the coupon/offer details carefully so there are no surprises at the pharmacy counter. One downside to these special offers is that they are often invalid/void if you have Medicaid or Medicare. Brad has some additional tips for saving money on medications if you're on Medicaid or Medicare.
3. Ask Your Doctor About Generic Alternatives
Generic medications are always cheaper than brand name medications, so it's worth talking to your doctor to see if there is a generic alternative to any medications you are taking. Many pharmacies now have special lists of generic medications that you can get for a low cost. For example, Wal-Mart and Target both have a list of generics that they sell for $4 per month or $10 for a 90 day supply. They also offer mail order and free shipping. Be careful to compare the dosages and quantities you're prescribed to the list at the pharmacy. Sometimes they only cover certain quantities or strengths. Bring the list to your next appointment with your doctor to make sure you get the right medication in the right strength. You can also ask the pharmacist to confirm your cost before filling.
4. Compare Pharmacy Prices and Special Pricing Plans
A common misconception is that medications are the same price no matter which pharmacy you go to. However, a recent investigation found that the price for a month supply of generic Prozac varied from a high of $92.24 to a low of $9.69 within same city!! So it pays to shop around and find the lowest price possible, especially when you don't have insurance. Some pharmacies, like Walgreens, offer discounts on a larger number of medications by paying a small yearly fee. Other pharmacies like Publix offer free antibiotics. Costco is also a great place to find low cost medications and you don't have to be a member to utilize their pharmacy. As well, many pharmacies have additional discounts for anyone paying a "cash" price instead of using insurance. Ask your pharmacist if there are any discounts or programs they have that might save you money. Be sure to ask your doctor to write each prescription on a different sheet of paper so you can send them out separately as needed to save money.
5. Look into Financial Assistance from the Manufacturer of Your Medication
If you are really in a bad place financially, one of your other options is to look into the manufacturer's financial assistance programs, intended for people who have lower income. These programs can help you get free or low cost medications. You usually have to provide wage statements and/or tax returns with your application, but in the end you may get a full year or free medications. To check if you qualify, check the information about the programs on the website for your brand name medication. Lisa has compiled a list of links and phone numbers for financial assistance programs for many RA medications.
With a little extra time and effort, you can find ways to lower your prescription medications costs on just about every medication you take. You'll be amazed at just how much you can save. And when you're on a budget, every little bit helps!
Here are two additional resources on the internet that will help you get started on your savings journey:
NeedyMeds.org - This is the BEST resource on the Internet for finding the programs and websites you need to help you save money on your medications.
Consumer Reports: Getting the Best Price on Your Drugs - This is a great little guide with some helpful tips and links to help you save money.
Carrie Beth Brown is the author of the blog Dancing in the Rain.