The cost of prescription drugs in the
What you pay varies greatly depending on the drug, the pharmacy, your insurance plan, and your deductible, among other factors. A drug that might have been cheap or at least affordable the last time you filled it out might be much more expensive or not covered at all next time.
Often people have no idea how much a prescription costs until they get to the pharmacy counter, says
Still, it’s important to find a way to buy your medications. People who don’t take prescribed medications because of the cost could end up sicker – or die.
“What is a potentially relatively minor problem today, like high cholesterol, could turn into a much more serious problem, like a heart attack, if you don’t treat it,” Purvis says.
CHECK WITH YOUR DOCTOR AND YOUR INSURANCE PLAN
Your doctors may not know how much your medications are costing you, because they deal with dozens of insurance plans with different drug formularies or lists, and how they’re covered, Purvis says. In addition, insurers can enter into agreements with certain pharmacies, so that a drug that costs
If buying a drug is a challenge, your doctor may be able to suggest alternatives, such as a generic drug or another type of drug. Two other questions you can ask: if a medication you’ve been taking for a while is still needed, and what lifestyle changes might reduce or eliminate the need for prescriptions.
If you have insurance, carefully review your drug coverage options each year during open enrollment — that annual period in the fall when you choose your health insurance for the following year. Make a list of all your medications with their dosages and check how these are covered by each plan. Insurers change their forms regularly, so you may need to switch plans to get the best coverage. And even if your medications are covered, you’ll usually have to pay for prescriptions out of pocket until you reach your deductible.
Your insurer or pharmacy may offer a mail-order option to cut costs, but don’t assume that’s your best bet. Shopping around could lead to significant savings.
SEE PRICES ONLINE
Start your search online. The number of online pharmacies has exploded in recent years, giving you plenty of opportunities to save.
Amazon launched a full-service pharmacy in 2020, joining more established dispensaries, such as Costco.com and
Your savings may be offset by membership fees: Amazon’s Prime membership – which you’ll need if you want the lowest prices – is
LOOK FOR OTHER DISCOUNTS
An often overlooked alternative for Medicare beneficiaries is the Extra Help program, which aims to help seniors with limited income and resources pay for their medications, Purvis says. You can apply online or by calling 800-772-1213.
BEWARE OF DRUG INTERACTIONS
Finding the best prices can take a lot of time and effort. And people who aggressively shop for the cheapest drugs could face a hidden risk if they get multiple drugs from different pharmacies, Purvis warns. Without a single pharmacist overseeing their care, they risk potentially dangerous drug interactions.
You can use an online drug interaction checker like the one on WebMD, but ideally you should ask your GP or pharmacist to review your complete list of medications at least once a year.
“It’s really important to make sure someone has an eye on the big picture,” Purvis says.
This column was provided to The Associated Press by the personal finance website