Few expenses are as frustrating, unpredictable, and scary as the cost of health care. If you must take a prescription medication for either a chronic condition or a sudden illness, you know this all too well. It feels like the pharmaceutical companies are holding us hostage! This is leading far too many to skip doses or go without medications altogether.
Before you take such drastic measures, please do some research. There are a variety of sites and services that can save you money on the prescription drugs you need. For February’s Happy Healthy Helpers I’ve compiled the best resources I could find. They can all be accessed easily online by clicking the links provided. But first, just a bit of general advice…
Always Ask About Your Medications
It is important to be a savvy shopper even when it comes to health care. If you have health insurance, you might be inclined to just fill whatever prescriptions your doctor suggests, assuming they will be covered. However, with insurance companies often changing their formularies (the list of medications they cover), you can’t be sure a med is covered until you do some investigating.
Also, it is important to always ask your doctor about the necessity of the medications they are prescribing. This isn’t meant to be argumentative or disrespectful, but rather opens a dialogue around any budget concerns you may have, particularly long-term. Oftentimes physicians aren’t aware of your financial situation or insurance plan restrictions until you bring them up. Be sure to also ask if a generic version of the medication is available, since generics almost always costs less.
Finally, question if an over-the-counter option might work for your needs. For example, common pain relievers can be the best first line of defense for an injury. Your doctor can guide you to the type and dosage that could work best for you. If these medications don’t work after a day or two, you could always request a prescription later.
Research Medication Costs & Co-pays
After you have been given a prescription, be sure to do your research before attempting to fill it. If you have a preferred pharmacy, call your pharmacist for information on what the medication will cost you, and to ask if any money-saving options are available. Pharmacists are typically aware of rebate or discount programs that could lower your costs.
Oftentimes, larger quantities (90 days vs. 30 days) will be more cost-effective for maintenance medications. If you find this to be true, you might have to request a new prescription from your doctor’s office in order to get the best deal. That is why doing your research before filling a script is so important.
You should also get to know your insurance plan so that you understand the typical co-pays for the medications you use regularly. Surprisingly, in some cases it costs more to use your insurance in filling a prescription medication. For example, Walmart Pharmacy offers many generic medications for $4 for a 30-day supply, whereas most insurance plans have co-pays of $10 or more.
In addition, some insurance plans have high deductibles that most be paid before prescriptions are covered at all. In either case, you are better off not submitting the script using insurance.
Finally, researching prices at all the major drugstores and supermarkets in your area will help you make the most affordable choice. I know this may sound daunting, but it can typically be done online or by simply calling the store’s pharmacy department.
Search Pharmacy Websites
Following are just a few of the chain pharmacy websites that can assist you in researching drug costs. [Note: Before clicking through this list, you might want to try searching GoodRx.com (discussed below) because that site searches multiple pharmacies at once by location.]
- Walmart Pharmacy
- Target Pharmacy
- CVS Pharmacy
- Rite Aid Pharmacy
- Walgreens Pharmacy
- Costco.com [Requires Costco Membership]
Online Pharmacies Save Money on Prescriptions
Ordering your prescriptions online is not only convenient, it is also typically less expensive, and generally doesn’t require insurance. In fact, some online pharmacies don’t even accept insurance as a means of controlling operating costs.
Several online pharmacies charge a membership fee, while others won’t ship to certain states. So, again, you are going to have to do a little research here. But, the opportunity for substantial savings is worth it! The following list will get you started.
- CostPlusDrugs.com (from Mark Cuban)
- ScriptCo.com [Requires membership of $50/quarter or $140/yr]
- Amazon.com Pharmacy [Requires Prime Membership]
*Of these sites, I have only ever used HealthWarehouse.com. However, this list is based on information from Consumer Reports research, so I trust these sites are reliable. For more information, see, “Online Pharmacies Can Help You Save Big on Prescription Drugs”.
Drug Discount Programs Help Too
If you search for “drug discount programs” you will find a wide variety of additional services that can offer you savings. My favorite is GoodRX.com. I have been touting their benefits ever since that site launched over a decade ago! Their easy-to-use coupons have saved me money on prescriptions, even when I had insurance.
You many have heard that this company has recently been fined by the FTC for allegedly releasing patient data for advertising purposes. According to a public statement from GoodRX, this was an old issue that has already been rectified. I still trust them as a reputable service that offers excellent health information (via GoodRX Health) and through their convenient search tools that offer drug prices based on your zip code.
Another program called NeedyMeds.com offers drug discounts via a card, as well as resources on Patient Assistance Programs. In addition, their free e-newsletters deliver updates on assistance programs right to your in-box.
I know that all of this information might feel overwhelming. Please remember that you don’t need to use every site or resource. Over time you will learn which sites and pharmacies best meet your needs. I hope you find it a comfort (as I do) that they are available when you need them. Feel free to bookmark this post or pin it on Pinterest so you can revisit it should your prescription needs change.
So, that’s it for this month’s Happy Healthy Helpers! I hope they help you manage your prescription drug expenses. If there are any helpful resources you would like to share, feel free to add them in the “Comments” section below.
[All links are current as of 2/22/23]
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