How to Save Money on Prescription Drugs

Updated on: September 16th, 2020

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We’ve all heard the stories of people who don’t take medications because they can’t afford the cost, or they take half of the prescribed dose because then they only have to refill the prescription half as often. If you are one of these people—or you’ve been tempted to be one—or you just do not like paying more for anything than you have to, read on. There are many ways that we all can save money on prescription drugs, without just avoiding the medications and the doses that we need. At Pivot Health, prescription drug discounts are a built-in value-added feature to our short term health insurance and our supplemental health insurance. These discounts can mean significant savings for you and your family when you need to use prescription medications. In addition, on some of Pivot Health’s short term medical insurance products, an additional prescription drug benefit is included with a low annual deductible. See below for details. The first step to saving money on prescription drugs may be having a health insurance plan or a prescription drug discount card, but there are other methods that can help you save even more—whether you have insurance or not. In this article, we also will review how to look at doses, compare costs, get special coupons and comparison shop for medications. There are questions you should ask your doctor when he prescribes medication for you and questions you should ask your local pharmacist.

With Pivot Health, Get Help Paying for Your Prescription Drugs

As we mentioned above, there are two ways you can save on prescription drugs through Pivot Health. First, our short term health insurance and our supplemental health insurance both include discounts on prescription medications. These discounts provide:
  • Up to 70 or 75 percent savings on prescription drugs;
  • At over 66,000 pharmacies nationwide
With this program you will be able to:
  • Search for the lowest available price at participating pharmacies
  • Text, email or print your discount to use at the pharmacy of your choice along with your prescription
  • Pay the lowest available price at the register
Pivot Health’s short term insurance plans also have two levels of protection that include an insured prescription drug benefit. On some Core, Deluxe and Standard plans, you receive an insurance benefit that includes:
  • $500 deductible (Deluxe plans, generic drugs are not subject to the $500 deductible)
  • Generic prescription drugs:
    • Inpatient (while you are in the hospital): once you have met the deductible, you pay only 20 percent coinsurance.
    • Outpatient: once you have met the deductible, you pay a $10 copay for a 34-day supply.
  • Preferred-brand prescription drugs:
    • Inpatient (while you are in the hospital): once you have met the deductible, you pay only 20 percent coinsurance.
    • Outpatient: once you have met the deductible, you pay a $50 copay for a 34-day supply.
  • Non-preferred brand name prescription drugs:
    • Inpatient (while you are in the hospital): once you have met the deductible, you pay only 20 percent coinsurance.
    • Outpatient: once you have met the deductible, you pay a $75 copay for a 34-day supply.
It is important to note that specialty drugs are not covered in this insurance benefit, and some benefits will vary by state.

Other Ways to Save on Prescription Drugs

Whether or not you have insurance that covers prescription drugs, there are additional ways you can save money and things you should know about the medications you take. Some of these savings methods will take a little time on your part, but it will be worth the effort. Other methods are as simple as asking the right questions. Let’s take a look at several of these methods.

1. Buy Generic Prescription Drugs

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), generic prescription drugs on average are about 80 to 85 percent lower cost than brand name prescription drugs. That can be a huge savings, especially if you are prescribed several medications by your doctors. And, because of the approval process of the FDA, generic drugs have to be proven to be safe, effective and to perform approximately the same as the brand-name equivalent drug. If a generic drug cannot pass the FDA tests, then it will not be approved to be sold to the public. That means you can feel assured in taking a generic drug that you are receiving the same potency or strength of the same active ingredients as a brand-name.

2. Get Free Samples of Medications from Your Doctor

Many pharmaceutical companies provide free samples of brand-name prescription drugs to doctors to help persuade them to prescribe their medications. Sometimes your doctor may believe that a certain brand-name drug will be the most effective to treat your illness or injury. If that is the case, the doctor may offer you free samples to use before you fill a prescription that the doctor writes for you. If you believe the brand-name drug is the way to go, and you have insurance or another way to pay for the brand-name drug after the free samples are used up, this may be an excellent way for you to save money as you start using the brand-name drug. However, if you are not sure about the brand-name drug (either using it or paying for it), you may want to ask your doctor a few questions. See the section below about questions to ask your doctor.

3. Comparison Shop at Pharmacies

There are probably many pharmacies near where you live or work. Some of them are chain stores and some are independent pharmacies that may be owned locally. All of them have different arrangements with the supplier from whom they purchase their prescription drugs. At some pharmacies, special deals have been cut with drug manufacturers or drug distributors to reduce the sale price of certain medications. Those medications become the “loss leaders” or the “draw” that brings you back time after time to the same pharmacy. Even if you are buying generic prescription drugs, the cost difference from one pharmacy to the other may be significant. And, when you combine those differences with the differences in your insurance coverage or the cost after using a discount card, you can find real savings. According to a study by Consumer Reports, drug prices can vary significantly. In fact, this organization stated that not shopping around could cost you as much as $100 a month or more, depending on the drug you are buying. So how do you comparison shop pharmacies?
  1. There’s the “old school” way: call the pharmacies and ask what their price is. Be sure to mention if you have a specific insurance plan or discount card, since the price they charge may be different in those cases.
  2. Or, you can use a number of different online programs that allow you to see quickly and easily if you can save money at one pharmacy compared to another. These applications may even allow you to print out coupons to use when you purchase.

4. Buy 3-Month Supply of Your Maintenance Drugs

Buying in bulk often saves money on many items you purchase. The same can be true for prescription drugs, but you need to check first to know for sure. Many pharmacies will sell you a 3-month supply at a lower cost than three separate 30-day prescriptions for the same medication. And, if you have access to an insurance program or discount program where there is a mail-order option, that also may save you money on your out-of-pocket cost for the medication. Remember, if you are going to purchase a 3-month supply, you will need to ask your doctor to write a prescription for you for a 3-month quantity. Otherwise, you will not be able to purchase more than about a one-month supply.

5. Use Coupons

There are a number of ways to get coupons that you can use. We mentioned above certain online purchasing options. Sometimes your doctor’s office also has coupons for certain medications that are prescribed. And, some drug manufacturers’ websites may have coupons that you can download.

6. Split Pills

Although it will not work for every medication, there are some cases where you can actually cut pills in half to save money. How does this work? Some medications cost the same at different dosages. So, a 100-milligram tablet may cost the same as a 50-milligram tablet, for example. If you find that is the case, and the medication is in a form that can be split or cut (usually a tablet form rather than capsule or other forms), you can ask your doctor to prescribe the larger dosage and with instructions to take half a tablet. Some tablets come with a scored line across the top, and these are the easiest to use with the split-pill method of savings. You should purchase a small, inexpensive pill cutter, to make it easier and safer to split your pills. And remember, you need your doctor’s approval to use this method of saving money.

7. Seek Out Patient Assistance Programs

For certain prescription drugs and certain drug manufacturers, there may be patient assistance programs that help lower-income individuals purchase specific medications. You will need to meet certain income requirements to qualify, but in many cases, the income level threshold is higher than for other programs of public assistance. At NeedyMeds.org, you can use your diagnosis and the name of the prescription drug to find out if there is a patient assistance program and more details.

If You Are Medicare-Age

Many people who are on Medicare have even more need for saving money on prescription drugs. They may take many different medications prescribed by multiple doctors. There are special assistance programs established just for these older people. Also, if you are Medicare-age, it may be advisable not to try the pill-splitting technique mentioned above, unless you have a friend or family member helping you. Your friend or family member also may be able to help you with some of the other methods of saving money listed above.

Questions to Ask Your Doctor

As a recap, here are a few questions you should ask your doctor, to help you get the lowest cost on your prescription drugs:
  1. Is there a generic version of this medication?
  2. Is there a generic version of a similar medication that I can try first?
  3. Do you have free samples that I can use for the first few days or weeks?
  4. How long will it be before the medication is effective?
  5. When will I know if this medication is effective for me or if I should try a different medication?

Questions to Ask Your Pharmacist

Here are a few questions you can ask your pharmacist. It is easiest to do this if you generally go to the same pharmacy or a couple of pharmacies in your area.
  1. Is there a discount or price-match on this medication that can save me money?
  2. What is this pharmacy’s price of the generic of this drug? How does that compare to what the drug will cost me if I use my insurance or my discount card? Sometimes it may cost you less to buy the store’s generic at the going rate than to use the copay on your insurance.
  3. Are there any drug interactions with this drug and the other medications I take? Although this question is not directly about cost, it may lead you to a lower cost alternative, and it also may help you avoid unwanted side effects. Again, this type of question is best if you use one or two pharmacies for your prescription drug purchases.

Insurance, Discounts and Many Other Ways to Save Money on Medications

Insurance and prescription drug discount programs are the main ways that many people save money on their out-of-pocket costs for medications. Pivot Health’s short term insurance and our supplemental health insurance are programs you can purchase that can help. This article also has provided a number of quite different ways to save money on prescription drugs. Many of these methods work whether you have insurance that covers part of your medication cost or not. Use the methods that work best for you, and start saving this month!
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