When a pharmacy dispenses refills month after month, it’s easy for pill takers to coast along for years without evaluating their costs. If anyone in your household takes medications—and almost half of all Americans do—save with these strategies.
33.1 Ask Your Doctor to Help You Save
Never go cheap when your health is at stake. But do ask basic questions that might lead to savings.
□ 33.1.1 Ask if You Can Get By Without
Some conditions respond well to changes in diet or exercise.
□ 33.1.2 Ask for Free Samples
And also confirm that you can safely switch to cheaper drugs once the freebies run out, because sometimes you can’t.
□ 33.1.3 Ask for Generic Drugs
Generics sell for a small fraction of their branded counterparts.
□ 33.1.4 Ask for Cheaper Brands
If no generic is available, a cheaper brand of medicine might work. Research prices at the Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs page, which covers drugs for many ailments, including diabetes, elevated blood pressure, and high cholesterol.
□ 33.1.5 Ask for Over-the-Counter Drugs
Some conditions respond every bit as well to OTC drugs.
□ 33.1.6 Ask for Longer Prescriptions
Doctors usually prescribe monthly doses. To qualify for volume discounts, ask for 90-day prescriptions.
□ 33.1.7 Ask About Pill Splitting
A splitter cuts the pills—and your bills—in half. This option won’t work with all medications (gel caps and time-release formulas, for example) so consult with your doctor.
33.2 Shop Around
□ 33.2.1 Before You Shop, Read a Buying Guide
As mentioned above, Consumer Reports publishes guides for many drugs. Visit the Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs page.
□ 33.2.2 Buy From Reputable Online Sources
The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) has reviewed 7,000 internet drug sellers and concluded that 97 percent of them violate professional standards. Although the NABP may have an ax to grind because it wants consumers to buy from its members, the risks of ineffective or harmful medications seems real enough. For approved sites, visit NABP.net/programs/accredidation/vipps.
□ 33.2.3 Visit Warehouse Clubs
Many locations feature in-store pharmacies that offer competitive prices. By law, these usually are open to everyone, members and nonmembers alike. Call ahead for prices.
□ 33.2.4 Visit Discount Stores
Walmart and Target are embroiled in intense price wars on generic drugs. Check out their websites or call ahead for prices.
□ 33.2.5 Call for Bids
Ask for the same dosage so that you receive comparable offers.
□ 33.2.6 Seek Bids Online
Register at BidRX.com where local druggists vie for your business.
□ 33.2.7 Seek Member Discounts
The AAA runs a prescription savings program, as do other groups to which you might belong.
□ 33.2.8 Search for Coupons
Major drug companies offer coupons, so visit their websites.
□ 33.2.10 Become a Repeat New Customer
Pharmacies often offer discounts to attract new customers. Take advantage. When you see new customer offers, move your business. Or save yourself the hassle of moving. Simply show the competition’s ad to your pharmacy and ask whether it can match the offered discount. Do this every year and save.
33.3 Save With Payment Methods
□ 33.3.1 Investigate Policy Coverage for Drug Purchases
Check whether your health insurer pays prescriptions so you don’t have to.
□ 33.3.2 Tap Your HSA or FSA
With these accounts, you can use pre-tax dollars to buy medicine.
□ 33.3.3 Take Tax Deductions
Prescription drug costs become deductible once your total out-of-pocket medical expenses exceed 10 percent of your adjusted gross income. Save receipts and consult a tax advisor. Note: payments from HSAs and FSAs don’t qualify for deductions, because you already received a tax benefit when you first funded those accounts.
□ 33.3.4 Seek Credit Card Rewards
If you don’t have an HSA or FSA, pay with plastic and at least rack up some rewards. And even if you do have one of these accounts, pay with plastic anyway: when you charge a $1,000 in prescriptions to your three percent cash rewards card and reimburse yourself with a withdrawal from your HSA or FSA, you pocket an extra $30.