Reader Q&A: Ways to Save Money on Prescription Medications

question 300x300 Reader Q&A: Ways to Save Money on Prescription Medications

For today’s Reader Q&A, I’m actually hoping to get some tips from all of you — my very smart and savvy readers. A reader wrote in asking for ideas on saving money on her prescriptions medications. While I had one or two suggestions, I figure I’m just scratching the surface. I bet you all have lots of ideas, too!

So, today I’m turning it over to you. Here’s the question:

Since my husband started his own business a few months ago, we have had to switch to a high deductible health insurance plan. On top of the high monthly premiums, we are also struggling with the cost of prescriptions. Unfortunately, I have a monthly medication that I can’t not take, and of course, it is very expensive. I just filled my 90 month supply and got major sticker shock: $700 for 3 months! I order from a mail-order pharmacy, but I’m wondering if there’s a cheaper way to go?

Thanks for any advice you have!

Chava

How do you save on prescriptions – especially for daily medications? Please share your best suggestions in the comments section.

Do you have a question about saving money, using coupons or keeping kosher on a budget? Send me an email – I love hearing from my readers!

Comments

comments

Comments

  1. Do you have an HSA?

  2. I have 2 tips:
    – see if you are eligible for an hsa plan.
    http://www.irs.gov/publications/p969/ar02.html#en_US_2010_publink1000204020

    – call your insurance company and see whether they have a specific mail-order pharmacy affiliated with them so you get the best rates

    Good luck!

  3. We have Oxford and they have a prescription medication plan called Medco. What costs $15 at CVS costs $7 or $8. THey are on the web at http://www.medco.com
    Hope this helps.
    Elly

  4. I would do two things:

    1. Ask the doctor if there is a coupon for it. Pharmacy reps often leave them with doctor’s offices and it cuts down the cost greatly. If not, talk to the doctor to find out if there is a safe alternative.

    2. Call the company that manufactures the medicine. They may have a program for which you may qualify to get the medicine at a discount.

  5. Here in PA, pharmacists are allowed to substitute a less expensive generic (i.e. ibuprofen for Tylenol), unless you or your doctor specify otherwise. I don’t know if that’s an option in this case, since the generic has to be available, but it’s certainly something to think about.

  6. First off, if they have any kids they should try to get them on Medicaid. The limits on how much you earn are a lot higher for kids. Might as well try to apply for the parents and see how the works out. They may or may not get accepted. Even when my husband had a full time job my kids were on Medicaid.

  7. missfrizzly says:

    first off, in response to an earlier comment – ibuprofen isn’t a sub for Tylenol – ibuprofen is Motrin, and the generic equivalent of Tylenol is acetaminophen…slightly OT but I didn’t want anyone getting confused :)
    I have a similar problem to Chava, I spend A LOT of money on monthly prescriptions (and they don’t have a generic equivalent, so I don’t have the option of choosing generic) – sometimes , the drug company will have a patient assistance program where they’ll pay a portion or subsidize the amount you pay…and yes, Medicaid is a good option even if you have private insurance – if you are able to qualify, that’s a great help…I need to look into applying, actually…

  8. Those are great tips from everyone. I fall in line with Janice. Start with the doctor–you can do it in a phone call or e-mail–you don’t need to go in. MANY people cannot afford their prescriptions these days; don’t be nervous about speaking up. There could be a different way to write the prescription that would be cheaper (although it might involve inconvenience for you–such as taking two 5mg pills instead of one 10mg). There might be an alternative you haven’t considered. Also, if the doctor consults with the pharmacist, sometimes the pharmacist knows of a way to change the prescription and make it more affordable.

  9. If there is a generic, it might be on the list of Walmart $4 generics.

    She could look into the prescription plan that Walgreens offers.

    I agree with talking to the doctor first. In addition to the above suggestions, he/she may have samples of the medication to give her.

  10. call around-prices for the same drug can differ greatly from CVS to Walgreens to Costco. Mail order places might be like that too.

  11. It’s only a drop in the bucket but become good at rolling your prescriptions from Target > CVS > Rite Aid > Kmart wherever has a $25 Gift Card or whatever for a new or transferred prescription. There’s no limit to how many times you can do it so if you’re organized you can hop from store to store back and forth and save some $$$ while you’re at it. Hey, it’s something.

  12. Along the lines of what Aidel said. If you are taking 5mg of something, maybe the dr could prescribe a 10mg that you can break in half and that way you will get double the doses for the same price

  13. First stop should be this site: http://www.pparx.org/

    There are a lot of different kinds of programs. There are discount cards that you can download online for free that give prescription discounts. Even people with insurance can usually use them, though you may be limited to certain pharmacies. If you didn’t have insurance at all, you could contact the pharmaceutical company that manufactures the drug because they usually have programs to help people afford them. The problem is people with insurance don’t usually qualify!

    Then there is shopping around – Call Costco and look at online pharms to find the best price -the difference can be dramatic.

    Consider whether a high-deductible plan is still worth it after you factor in expensive medicines every month! Seriously, crunch the numbers… you never know. You should definitely also look into reputable Canadian pharmacies, which can often be deeply discounted.

    Look into flexible spending accounts, too. They make a difference for our family even though we never have copays of more than $50 (except on rare occasions).

    Both adults in our household are on multiple meds for a range of medical issues, so even with lower copays our monthly med expenses are outrageous. I have actually gotten off some meds because of it – Meds that I wasn’t sure I needed anymore anyway, so I tried (with dr’s supervision) going off them and found I could manage without, at least for the time being. I’ve also used (discounted, home-grown, or bought with coupons/ECB’s at CVS) herbs and supplements to help replace some of my meds. In the long-term, compared to high-deductible plans or high-copay scripts, alternative medicine can actually be *cheaper* if you make the right choices. Of course I have medical issues I will always have to be on meds for, but for everything else I am trying other approaches.

    Look into whether your doc can write you a script for more or fewer pills per day if that would save you money (sometimes docs have saved me money by writing a 1 month supply of twice the amount I really need, or by making it 1 500mg tab a day instead of 2 250mg tabs).

    Another question – Is this a med that costs so much because your insurance is refusing to cover it? If so, FIGHT the insurance company. Get your doc on board and have them appeal, appeal, appeal. I got my insurance after THREE MONTHS to cover a $1200/month prescription.

  14. I have 3 suggestions.
    First, the doctor’s office many times has samples. Ask for some. It may not cover all your medications, but it will make a dent in how much money you have to shell out.
    Second, I’ve heard of asking the doctor to give a 3 month supply prescription, where the dose was doubled and cutting the pill in half. The 3 month supply will now last 6 months.
    My son was put on a medication. I got the generic and it was over $100 for 12 tiny cream pouches. I commented about the price for generic at my doctors office. The PA said if you call the manufacturing/pharmaceutical company, they sometimes give discounts directly to the customer.

  15. Someone mentioned cutting a pill in half. You really have to ask your doctor if that is okay because many pills are time release pills and cutting them in half can be dangerous.

  16. If you call the insurance company, they may be able to tell what their “preferred brands” are. My Dr. recommended two different brands for a presciption, both of which had a $50 copay. I called the insurance company and they gave me the names of several preferred brands that had a twenty dollar copay. I then had to go back to the nurse and see which one of the preferred brands was the right one for me, but it took a bit of potchky-ing, but once it was done, I was saving a lot every month.

    Good luck!

  17. Ask the pharmacist for help. Last night, we mentioned to our local HyVee pharmacy that our new insurance had an super high deductible, and she knew exactly where to look online to score a free first prescription (would have been over $200.00), and a couple of $10.00 coupons for future refills.

  18. I just signed up to get free prenatal pills plus DHA (an expensive but beneficial supplement for brain and eye development for in-utero and nursing babies) from my local Schnuck’s grocery store. See if a store near you does this as a community service. I expect it to save me about $15 a month.

  19. Go generic whenever possible. I you don’t have any prescription drug coverage or if a certain medication isn’t covered, try using a prescription discount card. I use one that I got from http://www.usamedsaver.com/
    You can use it on generic medications too, so it actually can save you even more- best of all, it doesn’t cost a dime!

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