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8 Tips for Serious Prescription Savings

prescription savings

Guest post from Alicia of Sweeping Up Joy

“Ask your doctor about generic drugs.”
“Talk to your doctor about alternatives to expensive drugs.

For families, like ours, who rely on a medication without a generic option or alternatives, these tips aren’t useful at all. Many drugs have no generic options. Not all conditions have a variety of available treatment options.

If you are interested in some serious prescription savings, use these 8 tips to slash costs on long-term, specialized, expensive medications for chronic illness:

1. Check with your insurance company.

Ultimately you and your insurance have at least one shared goal: keep expenses low.

We use the pharmacy our insurance company recommends, and if they had a network, we’d stay in it! I gladly spend a few minutes on hold and being transferred several times in order to make sure we’re jumping through all the hoops we need to.

2. Check out prescription price comparison sites.

Kineret was one of our prescriptions… and based on the information on GoodRX, the price difference from Kmart to Target for Kineret is $420 a year!

GoodRX also shows coupons offered by various pharmacies — just remember to check with your insurance to see if they will cover all pharmacies before switching.

3. Refill prescriptions as soon as possible.

If you know you will meet your maximum out-of-pocket expense for the year, try to fill prescriptions as soon as they are available for a refill, even if some of the medication remains. By continuing to do this all year, you can build up a small reserve of medication.

If you can squeeze in another refill after your “maximum out of pocket” is met before the end of the year, that’s potentially a big savings.

For example, if your child’s medication will run out on January 5th, you can renew the prescription before that. (Check with your insurance company for exact time frames.)  If you have already reached an out-of-pocket maximum for the year, refilling the prescription December 31st could save you the cost of an entire month’s prescription.

4.  Ask for a cash discount.

We have insurance, but when there was a big hiccup (faulty medication and an insurance company who wouldn’t pay for another set of medication because it was too close to the last fill date), we were forced to pay for medication out of pocket. Talking to the pharmacy saved us several hundred dollars because we were willing to pay cash.

I have also gotten prescriptions that actually cost less than the copays — so by asking for the cash price before paying, it’s possible to decide whether or not to utilize insurance.

5. Check specific drug company sites.

Did you know that many pharmaceutical companies offer copay assistance? Big Pharma gets a bad rap (and sometimes rightly so), but it’s in their best interest to keep people using their products. Many financial assistance programs are offered to help individuals stay on their medication.

We’ve been a part of the copay assistance program for both Kineret and Actemra.  There’s some hassle with the application process, but the savings have been well worth any headache! We have saved thousands of dollars over the past few years by utilizing the copay assistance programs.

6. Check your medication at RxAssist.

There may be other financial help available for your specific medication.

7. Consider changing your diet.

Families with ADHD sometimes report that artificial colors and flavorings impact their child’s behavior. Could adding in additional green vegetables or eliminating processed foods improve you child’s health? Adding in berries or bone broth? Eliminating dairy?

Personally, we’ve noticed that processed sugar tends to cause increased pain for one of my children. Skipping sugar hasn’t cured anything, but I believe it has allowed us to get by without additional pain medication.

Implementing family-wide changes can be awful, but if it can result in a lower dose of medication or fewer medications, it may be worth the awful adjustment period.

8. Consider alternative medicine.

If I had a dollar for every “natural cure” suggested to us, I could afford to buy a gallon each of organic tart cherry juice and frankincense essential oil. We have researched all sorts of hair-brain and legitimate options over the years.

Chiropractic care, massage therapy, acupuncture, etc., can play a role in overall health and keeping doses low. We run all our ideas by our daughter’s specialist before trying anything. Some things have helped. Some have not.

I’ve come to grips with the fact that our daughter’s illness can’t be fixed without some pharmaceutical intervention. However, researching ways to save on her prescriptions has given me a sense of control in an otherwise helpless situation. Add to that the thousands of dollars we’ve saved over the years and it’s worth all the boring hold music and tiresome applications we’ve endured.

How have you saved money on big ticket prescriptions?

Alicia is a frugal, bookish mom of four who blogs about finding humor and beauty in the little moments at Sweeping Up Joy.

photo source

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22 Comments

  • Natalie says:

    Thanks for this article. I have two children who need a lot of medications, some of which are very expensive. We are lucky to have insurance that covers the majority of the cost, but the co-pays do add up.

    Another tip – check to see if your co-pay is lower overall for a larger supply. For us, the copay is lower if we get a 90-day supply at one time rather than getting three 30-day supplies, plus I don’t have to spend time as much time ordering or picking up medication.

  • Judy says:

    Please keep in mind that when you use discounts like good rx or manufacturer discounts, they collect your personal information.

  • Bo says:

    I’ve found that Sam’s Club has a pricing agreement (per my doctor) for Synthroid/it’s generic so it’s a lot cheaper than other pharmacies . It’s even cheaper than if I were to use my insurance card…I wonder if there are other drugs out there like that? Cheaper only at some stores?

    Another thing I have noticed, my son has ear drops for tubes and his doctor’s partner prescribed the “eye” version of the ear drops and it was $10 co-pay instead of the usual $50 co-pay with my insurance. I was concerned since it said “for eyes,” but was reassured by doctor, nurse and pharmacist that it was the same exact drug just the way the drug company decided to market it… hm. Something to consider asking about for little ones with tubes!

  • Jessica says:

    Our insurance does not apply the out of pocket maximum to pharmacy benefits.

    One thing to do is to ask the doctor for samples each time you go to the doctor. Sometimes you can get up to a 2 week supply of medication that way.

    My son and I have asthma (2 inhalers, a nebulizer and daily meds), I have a thyroid disorder and one of my daughters has ADHD, so we go through a lot of medication.

  • Mary H says:

    If you have a Costco in your area check the price at their pharmacy. You do not need to be a member to use this service. I had a medication that was not covered by insurance and the price was significantly cheaper there than any other pharmacy.

  • Victoria says:

    Please, please, please DO NOT ever jump around to different pharmacies. Filling prescriptions at multiple different pharmacies can be dangerous. Your pharmacist is trained to catch drug interactions and help you manage your medication regimen. If you fill at different places, they can’t do that. Don’t unintentionally cause yourself harm or side effects to save some money. If you absolutely have to use different pharmacies due to cost let your pharmacist know what medications you are taking. I’ve seen people experience side effects and harm from using multiple pharmacies.

    Signed,
    A Concerned Pharmacist

    • Sandra says:

      Thank you for that information! We use different pharmacies because of cost (we have no insurance), so I will be sure to let our pharmacist know all the medications my husband is taking. I am also going to see if one pharmacy will match the price of a medication so we can use a single pharmacy.

  • We don’t need much in the way of medication, but I’ve been told the private chains can be cheaper. I know that I pay a lot at Walmart though. It would be worth it to try different pharmacies until you find one that works best.

  • Alicia,

    Useful information for the readers. I myself felt a huge difference in my health after eliminating white sugar. We try to eat as healthy as possible and indulge when we eat outside.

    Thanks for sharing the price comparison site. I need to start using it.

    • Alicia says:

      Glad you’re feeling better after saying goodbye to white sugar. We haven’t had white (or brown!) sugar in our home for several years now.

      Fortunately our daughter hasn’t had a reaction to a little raw honey or maple syrup to make a sweet treat with almond or coconut flour. 🙂

  • Amy says:

    Alicia, I followed some of the links and read about your daughter being so sick. Bless your heart. I’ll be praying for your family when o think about you. Thanks for your tips.

  • Another pharmacy employee says:

    Seconding not to pharmacy hop to get the best price. Drug interactions can be tracked easier if you use one pharmacy. Many rental chains have their own discount list or club price you can join for a small fee. Often the club price is cheaper than insurance copays. Before transferring around, ask about the above. You might be surprised to find out it’s cheaper (and safer) to stay with your current pharmacy.

  • Tina says:

    I don’t know if all companies offer this, but I recently learned that my InsCo has a prescription delivery service. I pay about $50/month for my asthma meds (add an additional $45 if I need a rescue inhaler refill), but with the delivery service, my script co-pays will be cut by about 60%! It may not be available to all, but it is definitely worth looking into.

  • Patty says:

    This is a great article with good tips. Thanks very much.

    I recently had to stop taking a medication I’ve used for years. My portion doubled to an amount I couldn’t afford. I don’t earn enough to pay for the drug now, but I make too much to qualify for the company’s patient assistance program. Welcome to the middle class!

  • Maryalene says:

    Great tips!

    I would add that if you have a qualified high deductible insurance plan, open a Health Savings Account so you can pay with tax deductible money. You can deduct up to $6,450 (or maybe it’s $6,750 this year) in deposits made to an HSA if you have a family plan. If you don’t use it all, the money rolls over indefinitely. Without it, you can only deduct medical/prescription expenses that exceed 10 percent of your gross income.

  • Great article! I would also encourage people to take advantage of a Health Savings Account, especially if they know they will be making purchases out of pocket. This is a great avenue for using your hard earned money pre-taxed. Also, please be careful with using multiple pharmacies. My sweet husband works in law enforcement and these good men and women are always having to work doubly due to certain people taking advantage of pharmacies in their attempts to get pain medicine. Once you use multiple pharmacies, especially so close together, your name will be monitored to make sure you’re not taking advantage of the system or seeking after more pain meds than prescribed. In short, just be careful and wise.

  • J says:

    Good health is the best way to save on prescriptions. Go outside, eat a paleo diet, smile and be kind.

  • Dianne P says:

    As a pharmacist, I agree that these are some great ways to save money on expensive medications. I also agree it is best to utilize one pharmacy and be polite and patient, and most pharmacists will move heaven and earth for you! The mail has been flooded with “coupons” and special offers to save money on prescriptions, most are a scam that capture personal data about you and your medications and then sell data to physicians, hospitals, and insurance companies! These “discount cards” are in business to make money, and do so by selling this data. Please read their privacy policy carefully before using them. Also, the pharmacy I work for will NEVER charge more on an insurance card vs cash price. We will always compare the 2 prices and give our patients the cheapest price. Always. That is an honest business practice that the pharmacy I work for stakes their name on. Ask your pharmacy what their policy is.

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