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How to talk to your doctor about medication costs
November 22, 2022
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Drug prices can vary greatly from pharmacy to pharmacy, even within the same zip code. So you can potentially save money on your medication by shopping at the best price.

“Prescription and over-the-counter drug prices vary depending on where you go,” says Kyle Manera, chief operating officer of Co-Immunity, a Wichita, KS-based organization that helps people with chronic diseases.

Even if you buy insurance, your prime costs can vary depending on where and how you buy your medication.

Are all pharmacies the same?

Every pharmacy, whether local, chain, mail order or online, has its own medication label. Prices differ depending on the markup, the brand of drug, and the quantity you order.

Your insurance plan may require you to use the “preferred” pharmacy. This is a pharmacy that your insurance company has an agreement with. If you use this pharmacy, you may have a lower co-payment for medication.

But even if you have insurance that covers medication, you might be able to find a lower price by looking around.

This is how you get the best prices

Try these strategies to find the best price for your OTC and prescription drugs:

Call around. You can save time and money by calling different pharmacies to find out your out-of-pocket prescription costs in advance.

“Call up a few independent pharmacies and compare their prices to the prices at a big store like Walgreens or CVS,” says Rajesh Chotalia, an Illinois pharmacist. “You might find a bargain at an independent pharmacy.”

Use price comparison tools. “There are a lot of good apps that can help you find the best prices,” says Manera.

Apps and websites like GoodRx, RxSaver, WebMDRx, and SingleCare help you compare the price of a drug at different pharmacies. If you enter the name of a drug, you will be shown a price list of various pharmacies in your area.

Some, like GoodRx, also offer coupon cards that you can use for additional discounts.

Try an online pharmacy. Some online pharmacies have pre-negotiated prices that can save you money. You can deliver your medication by post or offer local pickup.

For example, with Blink Health, you order online and then choose delivery or collection at a local pharmacy. At HealthWarehouse.com and Marley Drug, you search and order a drug online and it will be delivered in the mail.

Check shipping prices before ordering. Some insurance plans recommend using a specific mail-order pharmacy to fill long-term prescriptions. But they don’t always have the best prices. Mail order pharmacies sometimes save you money, but not always.

Compare prices with and without insurance. Your insurance plan can save you money on prescriptions. You may also be able to get certain over-the-counter medications at a lower price by claiming on your insurance. But insurance companies don’t always get you the best price. Because of deductibles and co-payments, you may get a better deal if you buy your medication direct.

But be careful about skipping insurance. The amount you pay may not count toward your insurance deductible or maximum deductible unless you can manually submit those expenses to show you paid for them. Contact your insurance company’s customer service department to learn how to submit your receipts. Do the same when using coupons or discount programs instead of insurance.

“Depending on what you’re buying, you can save more by dropping your insurance and looking at discount cards or sales,” says Andrei Vasilescu, co-founder of DontPayFull, a company that offers free coupons and discount offers to online shoppers.

Look for coupons. Some drug manufacturers offer discounts on expensive drugs. Try checking their websites for manufacturer coupons. You can also ask your doctor if they have any coupons you can use.

Try a drug discount card. You can save money with a free medication savings card. Cards like GoodRx, WebMDRx, and NeedyMeds can reduce your prescription costs by up to 80%.

You sign up for the card online, print it out at home, and then use it at pharmacies like Walmart and Walgreens to get discounts on your prescriptions.

Buy in bulk. “If you’re taking medication for a long time, it makes sense to get medication for 3 to 6 months,” says Chotalia.

For prescriptions, check with your insurer for the maximum supply of a drug they will cover at one time (it’s often a 90-day supply), then ask your doctor if they can prescribe that amount. This may cost more upfront, but can save you money over time. For over-the-counter drugs, you may find discounts on bulk drugs at wholesale clubs like Sam’s and Costco.

Talk to your doctor. Ask your doctor to review your prescription needs. Ask if you can skip any of your prescriptions. Perhaps there is a similar but less expensive drug that you can take instead. Or maybe there’s a generic version of the brand-name drug your doctor prescribed.

“If a generic drug is available, go for the generic version,” says Chotalia. “You will save a lot more money and it’s the same drug.”

Talk to your pharmacist. Your pharmacist may be able to save you money by recommending a cheaper drug or by telling you about different pricing options.

Ask them what your prescription will cost with and without insurance. See if they call your doctor to request a cheaper drug. And ask if they know of any prescription discount cards or patient assistance programs that might help you afford your medication.

Consider a patient assistance program. If you need help paying for medication, you can get free or low-cost medication through a patient assistance program (PAP) offered by the drug manufacturer. Some government agencies and nonprofit groups have them too. For information on various PAPs, see RXAssist.org.



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