Prescription drugs can be costly, whether you're insured or uninsured. In fact, the cost can sometimes influence people's decision even to take the drug. However, there are different solutions to utilize to save money, including buying bulk prescriptions to requesting the generic version. Below we go into detail on 10 ways to save money when purchasing your prescriptions.
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How to Save Money on Prescription Drugs Without Insurance
According to data collected by the Kaiser Family Foundation, nearly a quarter of adults taking a prescription say it’s difficult to afford their medications. Let's take look at 10 ways to help you save on prescriptions.
1. Ask About Generic Prescriptions
While not every medication is offered as a generic version, the ones have the same active ingredients and effects as the brand-name version. The generic version, however, can cost up to 80% less.
When speaking to your healthcare provider, always ask about the generic version. This way, if possible, they can prescribe the generic version so you can save money.
2. Utilize a Flexible Savings Account (FSA)
If you have access to an FSA program at work, you can put money into the account and pay for your medications with pre-tax dollars. For example, if you’re in the 25% tax bracket, this effectively gives you a 25% discount on your medications.
It can be a valuable benefit for people who know how much they will spend each year on medication and other health purchases. This is important because you will forfeit the money if you don’t spend all the money in your FSA by year-end.
3. Buy Prescriptions in Bulk
Buying prescriptions in bulk can help you save money (like Costco)!
Some medications are available in a 90-day-supply— you can inquire either through your local pharmacy or through your insurance company’s pharmacy plan. If it’s a new medication, you may want to start with a regular 30-day supply to ensure the drug is right for you. Then, once you are comfortable, move to a 90-day supply.
4. Request Samples
It’s possible your healthcare provider can give you samples of your prescription medication, allowing you to save money on the amount of money you spend. Depending on the medication, doctors may have full-size samples they can pass along to patients.
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This is most common for maintenance medications such as asthma inhalers or blood pressure medications. This is also common for brand-name products that do not have a generic available yet; therefore, you may want to ask your doctor if you will be able to substitute a generic when needed. If not, you may be paying out-of-pocket for a costly brand-name drug after your sample runs out.
5. Ask About Different Medications
If you know you want to save money on prescription drugs, or you're uninsured, ask your doctor about alternative medications. In many cases, several different medications can effectively treat the same ailment. If you didn't know about the cost while at the doctor, you can ask the pharmacist if there’s a cheaper alternative, then get your doctor’s approval to switch the prescription.
6. See if You Qualify for Prescription Assistance
Many drug companies have Patient Assistance Programs (PAPs). These programs provide free or low-cost prescription medicine to uninsured people (or, in some cases, if a particular drug is not covered under an insurance plan) and meet certain income guidelines.
RXAssist.org is a comprehensive online resource center and database that can help you research PAPs, download applications, and print redeemable drug coupons. They also offer a drug discount card. Many states in the U.S. and the U.S. Virgin Islands offer their own PAPs.
If you’re on Medicare and you meet certain income and resource limits, you may be eligible for what’s called “Extra Help” to pay the costs of Medicare prescription drug coverage.
7. Look for Coupons
There are different ways you can seek coupons for prescription drugs.
- Check online for reliable coupon codes and discount cards that can save money for your specific medication; these usually work if you're paying cash. You would then take the coupon to the pharmacy and show them the discount code. While most pharmacies are fairly comfortable with accepting discount cards, it’s possible to get still rejected. It may be best to call the pharmacy beforehand to make sure they will accept it.
- Ask for a discount at the pharmacy counter. Some chain pharmacies have in-house prescription discounts they can offer, although you may have to pay a small fee.
It’s important to know that some pharmacies may not honor coupon codes for controlled substances like opioid pain or anxiety medications. But, if you can’t afford a prescription of this nature, ask the pharmacist if they can contact the doctor to determine a less expensive alternative. In most instances, a comparable medication that is lower in cost can be prescribed for your condition.
8. Compare Pharmacy Prices
Prices for prescription drugs vary depending on where you get them from. So, before picking up a prescription, you may want to call different pharmacies and choose the one with the best cost. You can also get prescription prices matched at many pharmacies.
Additionally, if you take multiple medications, it’s best to purchase all of your prescriptions from the same pharmacy, so your pharmacist can check for drug interactions, duplicate therapy, or other medication issues.
9. Look Into Pharmacy Saving Cards
Pharmacy saving cards are accessible at the three major drugstore chains—Rite Aid, CVS, and Walgreens, and other smaller pharmacies. It’s free to sign up and you accumulate points when you fill prescriptions, get a flu shot, or check your blood pressure at in-store kiosks.
Your points can be redeemed for discounts on other health and wellness products and services. The frequent-shopper programs aren’t available in all states, so check with your local drug store. Discount programs may also be available at Target, Walmart, Kroger, Kmart, and Costco.
10. Be Open With Your Healthcare Provider
If you can’t afford your prescription medications, it could help to share this with your healthcare provider. In doing this, your provider may prescribe you a different medication or give you additional suggestions to afford your prescription.
What To Do If You Can't Afford Your Prescriptions
Anyone unable to afford their prescription may consider applying for an assistance program from one of the following:
- Drug manufacturers
- Nonprofit organizations
- Government programs
The Medicare Extra Help program provides information about Social Security assistance for prescriptions. Medicare also has a search tool to see if your state offers a state pharmaceutical assistance program.
Other tools, such as the Medicine Assistance Tool, can help connect you with potential assistance programs depending on your eligibility. Assistance programs typically require that you need prescription medication in order to function. You will also need to provide proof that they cannot afford the drug or have been denied insurance coverage.
Prescription medications can be very costly, but you should consider the 10 tips listed to save money before picking up your medication. It's also essential to communicate with your healthcare provider to be transparent about your situation.
If you find yourself struggling to pay for prescriptions, you can use MiraRx to access up to 80% off prescriptions, low-cost lab testing, and affordable urgent care visits. Sign up today.