When you’re living with a chronic condition or dealing with a short-term ailment like the flu, prescription drug treatment can make up a huge portion of your health care costs. Prescription drug coverage removes some of the stings, but some drugs still come with high co-payments. Considering the average American spends over $1,000 a year on prescription drugs, many people are looking for ways to keep their bills manageable. It’s possible to do — if you do your homework and work closely with your care providers.
Ask for Generic Drugs
Almost 80 percent of the drugs available today have generic equivalents that are as effective as brand-name drugs at a significantly reduced cost. Some generics can actually cost up to four times less than brand names. When you receive a prescription, ask your doctor about generic options and whether it’s possible to use them instead. If you have to take a brand-name drug because the generic isn’t available yet, find out when that medication’s patent expires. Once a patent expires, generics usually become available in six months.
Some medications are available in different dosages, and the cost of a higher dose pill is often the same as the lower dose. In those cases, it may be possible to split pills — getting two 50 milligram doses from a 100 milligram pill, for example — meaning you have to buy fewer pills. Not all pills can be safely split, however, so consult your doctor and pharmacist first to determine whether this strategy will work for you.
Canadian prescription drugs often cost up to 90 percent less than the same exact drug in the U.S., thanks in large part to governmental caps on drug costs. In most cases, all you need to do is fax your doctor’s prescription to the online or mail-order service, and you can get your medications for less than visiting a local pharmacy.
Use Mail Order
Many insurance carriers encourage policyholders to use mail-order prescription services for convenience and savings. In most cases, ordering a 60 or 90-day supply of your medications will cost less than refilling every 30 days at the pharmacy. Look into multiple mail-order services to find the best deal for your needs.
Contribute to FSA and HSA plans
If your employer offers a flexible spending or health savings account, consider contributing some of your pre-tax dollars to help offset your health care costs. There are some restrictions on how you can use the money from these accounts, and you’ll have to submit documentation for reimbursement, but purchasing prescriptions using pre-tax income can save you.
Only Take Drugs You Need
Sometimes, when you’ve been taking a certain prescription for a long time, it becomes less effective, or less expensive options become available. This underscores the importance of working closely with your doctor and regularly reviewing the prescriptions you take to determine whether your medication regimen could use some adjustments – adjustments that will save you some cash.
Tap Into Drug Company Patient Assistance Programs
Many drug companies realize that not all patients can afford their products, and as such established patient assistance programs to subsidize expensive medications partially or fully. To access these reduced-price drugs, you must apply directly to the company and meet certain income criteria. However, if you do qualify, you’ll receive a voucher that allows you to purchase your prescriptions at a significantly reduced cost.
Check Your Bill
If you pick up your prescriptions at the pharmacy, check your bill before leaving the store. Because medical billing is so complex, and there are so many codes for medications, it’s easy for an inadvertent keystroke error to result in a significant overcharge. Double-check your bill against your insurance carrier’s formulary, and confirm you’ve been properly charged. Catching an error could save anywhere from a few dollars to a few thousand dollars.
Most health care providers’ offices are amply stocked with drug samples provided by drug companies. If your provider writes you a prescription, ask if there are some samples available. You may be able to score a supply up to 10 days, reducing the number of doses you need to buy.
The best way to keep your prescription drug costs low is to not have to purchase them in the first place. While certain chronic conditions may always need some type of prescription treatment, living a healthy lifestyle with plenty of exercises and a good diet can go a long way toward getting you healthy and eliminating the need for many prescription drugs. Prevention is always the most effective form of medicine. Prescription drugs don’t have to break your budget. Before you fill your next order, explore your options. You may save a substantial amount of money while still getting the medication you need.