As prescription co-payments for health plans continue to increase, and plan formularies continue to limit what medicines are covered, more and more people are finding themselves with tough decisions about how to pay for prescriptions. Even though Medicare Part D has offered some help, many seniors constantly struggle to pay for medications, especially those that are necessary to treat a chronic illness.
If you are one of these people who are dealing with the high cost of prescription drugs, there are steps you can take to keep costs in check:
- Look at your policy provisions: Your coverage might have lower co-pays for generic drugs. Your insurer might also offer a mail order option that lets you get a three-month supply of prescriptions used to treat chronic conditions either at a discount, or with a lower co-pay. Also check the terms of your policy to see if your insurer caps how much it will pay out annually for prescriptions, or if it only pays for drugs on its formulary, which is its approved list of medications.
- Ask your doctor if there is another alternative: Your doctor might be able to prescribe an over-the-counter medication that will cost less and be just as effective as the high priced prescription in treating your symptoms.
If a prescription is necessary, find out first if there is a generic version. Many older drugs have generic equivalents. However, if your physician is prescribing a new brand name drug, there might not be a generic available.
In that case, ask your doctor if “pill splitting” is an option to keep costs down. Your physician might be able to prescribe a larger dosage pill that you can slice using an inexpensive splitter. This isn’t always possible; however, and only your doctor can determine if your medication will still work effectively if you pill split.
- Ask for samples: Pharmaceutical companies provide doctors with free drug samples to encourage them to prescribe a particular drug. Your doctor might be able to give you enough of these samples to supplement your prescription, helping to reduce costs.
- Check the price of your prescription at several pharmacies: Use the Internet and your phone to comparison shop how much your prescription will cost before you have it filled. Even the price of generic drugs can differ dramatically from pharmacy to pharmacy.
- Visit drug manufacturers’ Web sites: Many of the large pharmaceutical companies post downloadable coupons for their most popular drugs.
- Take advantage of your company’s flexible spending plan (FSA): These are employer-sponsored plans that allow you to save pretax money to pay for out-of-pocket medical expenses. In addition to prescription medications, FSAs also permit you to use the funds for some over-the-counter drugs.
- Sign up for discount prescription cards: If you don’t have coverage, try applying for a drug discount card to get reduced prices on medicines. Some cards are free; others have small monthly or annual fees.
- Sign up for prescription assistance programs sponsored by drug companies: Many pharmaceutical companies have started sponsoring assistance programs for people who can’t afford to buy the drugs that they need for chronic illnesses. Details can be found on their Web sites.