Prescription medications are one of the most expensive aspects of a health plan, and the cost is often overlooked when selecting health coverage. With the ever-changing landscape of healthcare and an uncertain future for the Affordable Care Act, many health insurance companies are trending toward high deductible health plans with fewer options for prescription drug coverage. Combined with higher drug prices in general, this leaves many Americans with significantly higher out-of-pocket pharmacy costs than ever before.
Fortunately, there are some actions you can take to lower your out-of-pocket pharmacy costs.
Here are a few tips:
Use Tax-Advantaged Savings Accounts
If you are eligible for a tax-advantaged medical savings account and not using one, you could be missing out on a lot of savings. The two most common types of medical savings accounts, Health Savings Accounts (HSA) and Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA), allow you to use pre-tax or tax-deducible dollars toward medical expenses. These accounts give you a lot of flexibility on how the money is spent and could help you save around 20% on your out-of-pocket pharmacy costs.
Request Generic Brand Prescriptions
Brand-named medications can be very expensive. Even if your insurance foots the bill for a large percentage of the medication, you can still have a high out-of-pocket expense. A generic brand is usually as effective as a brand name medication and costs a fraction of the price. Make sure your physician and pharmacist discuss all possible options with you and that they know you would like the best and most effective medications at the lowest out-of-pocket cost. Occasionally and unfortunately, physicians, pharmacists, and insurance companies are incentivized to prescribe, fill, or cover certain medications. This fills their pockets while emptying yours. If you feel this is happening, be sure to ask probing questions. For example: Does the drug work as effectively or better for my condition than others available on the market? Does the medication have the same dosage, results, and side effects? Do you have a business relationship with the drug manufacturer? Your doctor, pharmacist, or insurance company should be able to explain their decisions and actions clearly and directly. If you are unsatisfied with the answers you receive, you should seek a second opinion.
You may think prescription drug prices are the same at every store, but that is not true. It may come as a surprise that prices for the same prescription drug can vary widely from pharmacy-to-pharmacy. Some medications can be 30 to 40 times more expensive at certain pharmacies. If you think you’re paying too much for pharmaceuticals, take time to call multiple pharmacies to check their prices. Be sure to ask about generics and other medications that treat the same conditions. Once you have this information, you can compare and evaluate your current situation.
If you do find a pharmacy with lower costs, be sure to consider whether it is worth the effort to make a change. For example, if the pharmacy is inconvenient to get to or you need to drive to multiple pharmacies to pick up all your medications, it may not be worth the switch.
Evaluate Medication Needs Regularly
Make it a priority to discuss your medication needs with your physician annually or semi-annually. Evaluating your medication needs regularly can save you a lot of money. This is especially important if you are taking more than one prescription medication. Your health condition can improve or worsen from year-to-year depending on several factors, such as lifestyle habits and/or other medical conditions. Your medications should reflect your current health status. A regular medication review with your physician will ensure that all your prescriptions are working properly, not negatively interacting, and benefitting your overall health.