Dear Nurse Katz,
Medication seems like it is more expensive than ever and every time someone in my family gets a new prescription from my doctor, including myself, it never seems to be covered. To make matters worse, I usually don't find out until the pharmacist rings me up and I am forced to pay a crazy amount because I have not hit my deductible or my copayment doesn't apply to that medication. I have better odds in Vegas! Is there a simple way I can save time and money on my next prescription?
San Diego, CA
Unfortunately, you are not the only one with this dilemma. It can be extremely frustrating when you thought you would only have a $25 co-pay and the pharmacist says, "ok, that will be $80." There are a few ways to save on your medication that I mention in the book, Healthcare Made Easy, that can help reduce your pharmaceutical costs, but the ones listed below are the most popular around my followers and worked best for me:
1. Choose a pharmaceutical that is on your insurance formulary. This is the list of medications your insurance will cover. A big tip is to bring a copy of this list into your prescribing doctor so he/she can choose the best pharmaceutical for you that is on this list to avoid the surprise of it not being covered when you go into the pharmacy.
2. Save time and money; download an app: Believe it or not, pharmacies charge different prices for the same medication, and sometimes, even your co-payment may be more expensive than the prescribed medication. A big tip is to shop around with a phone app that can help you locate the best price for your prescription in your local area. Some of these apps include: GoodRx, LowestMed, and OneRX. Try a few of them out to find out which one works best for you before you are in an emergency situation. Today, some pharmacies have their own apps to help make getting your prescritions easier like CVS and Walgreens. Many of these apps contain coupons that can be downloaded. Here is a screenshot of the Goodrx app:
3. Don't rule out the smaller pharmacies: Just because the pharmacy is not a big chain does not mean you cannot get the big discounts. When you locate a pharmacy that may not be on any of these lists, be sure to ask the following questions:
•Do you have [insert pharmaceutical name and amount] I am looking for?
•What is the cash price?
•What is the price with this coupon? Describe the app coupon if it is a lower price. You might even want to go in the pharmacy to show them.
•Do you have any manufacturers coupons or specials that I might benefit from for my medication?
•Do you have a generic version of this? (Be sure your doctor did not write DAW on your prescription, which means "Dispense as Written")
Keep in mind that that might answer the phone, may not be the most informative or he/she may be super busy. Be patient and polite. Ask for someone that might be able to answer your questions to your satisfaction and if you're armed with a price or two, mention it. You might be surprised at how competitive these pharmacies are, especially if they might gain a loyal customer. Don't let the annoying music or a long wait dissuade you too much. The smaller pharmacies may not be armed with the staff, but they may have the customer service want in the end. Here is an example of an extra "loyalty discount":
4. Meet the pharmacist: Establish a relationship, explain your concerns, and ask for the discounts. You might be surprised to find that the pharmacy has an additional discount behind the counter. Here is example of one that had an extra "Loyalty program." Other pharmacies may even have a free delivery service! Today, many pharmacies have a "price matching program" like this one:
5. Keep your pharmacist on their toes: Before you fill your next prescription, shop around again. Medication prices fluctuate, even weekly. Your favorite pharmacy today may be the most expensive tomorrow. If you find the price changed, let your pharmacist know, and they might have a solution for you, especially knowing that another local pharmacy may steal you from them.
In addition, it is very important that when shopping around and using different pharmacies that you carry around a list of all prescriptions you are taking as well as any other over-the-counter medications, vitamins etc to avoid any interactions. Usually the pharmacist will ask, but some may be too busy or forget. Some apps actually keep track of this for you.
So the next time your physician decides to write you a prescription, arm yourself with some of the steps above; if not all of them. You might also want to make a list of the most expensive medications that your family seems to be taking throughout the year and find a cheaper alternative. On the other hand, you just might want to choose a health insurance that covers the medication you need and the pharmacy of your choice during the next open enrollment period, thus, creating better odds than Vegas!