A big advantage of having health insurance is prescription drug coverage. But plan benefits vary and even with the best health insurance you can still save big bucks by being a smart shopper. Here are some tips and hints to help.
Read your health insurance plan
Know what your insurer’s policy is about prescription drugs, formularies and refills.
Get the savings ball rolling when your doctor pulls out the prescription pad
Ask if the prescription is necessary. Many times busy docs write prescriptions for stuff you can buy over-the-counter.
Ask if there is a generic equivalent. Brand-name drugs are expensive because you’re paying for the research and development costs. But after the drug patent expires, you can get the same drug benefits with a cheaper generic version.
Ask if the doctor can adjust the number of pills being prescribed. If you’ll only need to take 3 or 4 of something, why pay for 30. Conversely, if your prescription is for a 20-day supply and your drug plan will pay the same for a 30-day supply, ask your doctor to write your scrip for 30 days.
Bring a copy of your health insurance plan drug formulary and make sure that drug is covered by your plan. If it isn’t, point it out to your doctor and request an alternative.
If you can’t afford a drug that’s being prescribed, speak up. Your doctor may be able to offer a cheaper alternative.
Ask if it’s possible to write the prescription for a stronger dose and split the pills. Many insurance plans make no distinction between the cost of a 10mg versus a 20mg pill. (Do not, however, become your own physician and undertake this without consulting your doctor. And never assume that you can double the dose of anything!)
Ask if your doctor has samples of the drug you can try.
Shop for the best bargain
Drugstores and pharmacies are hunting for customers these days and they’re willing to buy your business. Many will pay you for every existing prescription you switch over to their establishment. If their costs are comparable or lower to where you’re currently having your prescription filled, it might make sense to switch.
Check out the prices at discount chains and big box stores. It might be worth driving a little bit out of the way or standing in line. Costs for eligible generic drugs can range from $4 for a 30-day supply to $10 for a 90-day supply.
Most health insurance plans include a mail order option. This can result in significant savings for drugs you take long-term.
Take advantage of every savings opportunity
Does your employer have a Flex Savings Account option? Enroll, save your receipts and get reimbursed for out-of-pocket medical expenses tax-free.
See if your pharmacy has a loyalty program that offers rewards for continued patronage.
Don’t be a drug dope
Tempting as it is to save money, never risk your life or health by using a friend’s or relative’s prescription drugs or by cutting back or eliminating prescribed doses.