Tips for savvy prescription drug shopping
The American Institute for Preventative Medicine (AIPM) came up with the idea. A whole month dedicated to helping consumers battle the bulge in healthcare spending by being smarter consumers.
If you’ve had reason to pay attention to healthcare trends over the past decade, you’ve likely heard about this one. Consumers–not experts, such as policy makers, insurance companies, drug makers, healthcare systems, to name a few–should be able to control healthcare costs.
In some respects, that is true. Keeping up on preventive care, seeing a primary care physician before a specialist, opting for generics over brand name drugs are ways we can reduce medical spending as individuals. The AIPM has this to say on its site:
“Escalating health care costs have burdened both employees and employers. The average cost of a visit to the doctor is about $199; a visit to the ER costs about $1349, according to AHRQ. About 25% of those visits are unnecessary.”
Point taken. We can all do our small part.
If you’re sensing a little frustration at burdening consumers with controlling cost, you would be correct. If the pros can’t figure out how to handle runaway spending, how can the average Joe? (But that’s another blog post for the future.)
Add to that the fact that the AIPM has put its “Wise Healthcare Consumerism Toolkit” behind a firewall–meaning you have to sign up to get it–doesn’t make being a wise consumer any easier.
However, in the spirit of what National Wise Healthcare Consumer Month is meant to be, we’ve put together a list of savings to-dos for our area of expertise: prescription drugs.
Here’s what you can do:
- Shop around. You may be surprised to learn prices vary between pharmacies. A Consumer Reports investigation proved if you’ve got the time, you can save some dimes–maybe even a lot of ‘em.
CR sent 150 secret shoppers into pharmacies around the country with a shopping list of 5 commonly prescribed drugs. The total cost at independent pharmacies: $107. Total cost at CVS: $928.
- Google for coupons. Type “coupon for [your medication’s name]” Press enter. The truth is, many manufacturers make coupons available. Many pharmacists aren’t aware of them, or don’t tell consumers about them. This solution can help you track down potential savings.
- Substitute for a cheaper med. Doctors often don’t know how much a medication they prescribe costs. Another drug with the same efficacy may be significantly more affordable. If you get sticker shock at checkout, ask your pharmacist if there’s a lower-priced alternative.
- Get the generic (maybe). Similar to #3, you may be able to get a more affordable generic version of the brand name drug you’ve been prescribed. We won’t bore you with a primer on patent law. Suffice it to say that generics aren’t always available.
- Leave insurance out of it (sometimes). This may be a head-scratcher to some. Why pay for insurance if it can’t help you pay for your meds? However, in some instances, the cash price of a med is lower than your insurance copay. Of course, that cash payment won’t apply to your deductible. So, there’s that.
- Use a pharmacy savings card/sign up for rewards. Seems like there are as many prescription drug discount cards as there are prescription drugs. Finding the best one for you will require some research. Each has advantages. None are accepted at every pharmacy.
Many pharmacies have rewards cards. Maybe you’ll be taking a prescribed drug over the long haul. Maybe you have a family or are a caregiver for a loved one. If you’re a “regular,” signing up is free and might make dollars and sense for you.
You can also get the Gifthealth Savings card (more on that in just a bit).
- Hack it in half (literally). This is about as low-tech as it gets, but asking your doctor for a higher dose of your prescription that’s safe to cut in half means you can get 2 months of medication for the price of 1. Not all medications make the cut, however, so be sure to talk it over with your prescriber.
- Try Gifthealth. We don’t like to toot our own horn, but we’ve built a technology platform that makes saving so easy, it’s automatic. No apps, portals or passwords. No shopping around or searching for discounts. If there’s a way to save on your meds, we’ll find it–and deliver them for FREE anywhere in the country.
It’s easy to get started.
- Simply tell your doctor that you would like your prescription sent to Gifthealth.
- Transfer your new or existing prescriptions using text-to-transfer or the transfer tool on our website.
We also have the Gifthealth Savings card you can use in two ways.
- Option #1. Use it like any other prescription savings card, meaning it’s accepted at more than 50,000 pharmacies across the country and can save anywhere from $2 to $100s on your cash purchases of prescription medications.
- Option #2. Use the information on the card to have your prescription filled through Gifthealth, and we’ll do all the work necessary to find any available savings.