Saving on Prescriptions

No matter which side of the political aisle you sit on, and regardless of whether or not you support or want to repeal the Affordable Care Act, one thing that I think most everyone seems to be in agreement on is that the cost of many of our prescription drugs has gotten out of hand. If you listen to the drug companies, they’ll give you dozens of reasons why that is, and while one or two may have some (and I use some very loosely) validity, most hold water about as well as your grandmother’s colander.

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Illustration courtesy of www.wellnesscorporatesolutions.com

What amazes me however, is that for all of our ability to jump on the internet and rant about it, or tell heart wrenching stories about knowing someone who is rationing medication because they can’t afford it or worse, that someone died because they couldn’t afford their medication, there is still a gap in getting information out to the general public on how to find help to pay for medications. This is an issue that affects so many people, regardless of the kind of job you have, or your insurance because today so many employer driven health plans are high deductible plans, meaning deductibles need to be paid before the co-pays kick in and medications are a part of paying deductibles. I don’t know if it’s just that people don’t think there is anything out there for assistance, or it just doesn’t occur to them to look, but there are a number of ways that you may be able to find help with paying for medications, and I’ll share a few of them here that I’ve learned about. Please understand that this list isn’t an exhaustive list, nor am I receiving any kind of remuneration for mentioning any resources. Rather I’m an RN and former case manager, and want to try to share a little of what I’ve learned over the past months and years.

One of my “go-to” resources is GoodRx. This is a free site/app that is available to anyone, and you may have even seen one of their displays in your doctor’s office (their cards have a yellow strip across the top). While GoodRx will tell you it’s not insurance, for most of us out here it sort of acts a lot like it. To get an ID number than can be used by everyone in the family, just grab one of the cards, or go to their website and sign up for free. Once you sign up you can download the app and log into that and you’re all set to go, it will link to the account you signed up to online and provide the ID number back to the app. Show the number on your app to your pharmacy. They will run your prescription through GoodRx and apply any discounts. Some are more substantial than others, and you should only have to do it the first time you fill a prescription with it. I generally ask if the price of the drugs seems higher than I expect, just to be sure as once in a while they forget, but most of the time they do it automatically as it’s in the system.

After downloading the app on your phone, you can enter the name and dose of any drug, add your zip code and it will look up the cost of the drug at pharmacies in your area (you can also do this on the website). Where that can be helpful is if you’re sitting in your doctor’s office, and you know you have something that’s expensive, your doctor can send that prescription to the pharmacy where you’ll get the deepest discount.

Two others that you can try are SingleCare.com and Easydrugcard.com. While I haven’t used either of these, I do know they are out there. An internet search on “discount pharmacy cards” or “discount prescription program” will bring up others as well. One caveat to using GoodRx, and I suspect the other programs, is that you can only use them in conjunction with commercial insurance (meaning, you need to be insured with your employer). If you have some sort of state plan like Medical Assistance or Medicare, you generally can’t use the discount cards.

Another way you may be able to save on the cost of medication is directly from the manufacturer. I recently wanted to refill a medication that I knew would cost me over $600 with the discount card! Since that was cost-prohibitive for us right now, I went to the manufacturer’s website, and found a coupon there that would allow me to get the medication for $15!  If I remember correctly, there was a limit on the number of refills per year, but that was fine as I don’t refill it frequently so I would have been able to work with that. (I ended up not using it, as we had an insurance change before I could fill it.)

A final possibility is with your pharmacy directly, and this was a new one to me. You can’t turn on television, radio or hop on the internet these days without hearing about the Opioid crisis, and some of the steps that are being taken to combat it are moving closer to our everyday lives. Some pharmacies are now not honoring the discount cards for any drugs that would fall into what the FDA has classified as a “scheduled” drug, meaning they watch how it’s dispensed more closely as it has some level of potential for abuse. There are five levels of scheduled drugs, with things like Heroin and Ecstasy being Level I and Robitussin with Codeine being Level V, to give you an idea. However, I know of at least one pharmacy that developed their own discount coupon so that their clients would still be able to afford the medication.

I know that this isn’t an exhaustive help list, and folks are still likely to fall through the giant crevices in our healthcare system. But please, share this with everyone you know, so that if it helps just a few people better afford their medication, it’s worth it.

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