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6 Ways to Cut Prescription Drug Costs

Last update on: Dec 27 2018
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The Part D Medicare Prescription Drug program is doing well after its first year. Surveys show that it is very popular with its beneficiaries. Premiums and other costs to beneficiaries are lower than forecast.

Yet there still is room for mature Americans to reduce their prescription drug costs. Retirees who aren’t yet old enough for Part D need strategies for reducing the cost of medicine. Part D beneficiaries still have deductibles and copayments. There also is the gap, or the doughnut hole, in which a beneficiary is responsible for all medicine costs. Even after medicine expenses hit the catastrophic level at which Part D pays most of the costs, you still have to pay 5% of each prescription.

Here are strategies to consider for reducing the cost of prescription medicines.

Have medicines reviewed. When drugs are prescribed by different doctors, it is not unusual for some medicines to be fully or partially duplicated. People who take multiple medications should gather all of them, or a detailed list, for review by their doctor or pharmacist.

Compare costs. Some health care or Part D plans require medicines to be purchased from approved pharmacies to be covered. If you have a choice of pharmacies, it is important to compare prices. The cost of both brand name and generic drugs varies considerably among pharmacies. Generally, Costco and Wal-Mart offer the lowest prices. Be sure to ask for prices for your specific medications. It is not unusual for pharmacies to offer low prices on some drugs but have higher mark ups on others.

For recurring prescriptions, do not overlook mail order and Internet pharmacies. Some drug plans require a specific mail order or Internet pharmacy for long-term prescriptions. Be sure to use only an established pharmacy. There are a few that have sold adulterated or diluted drugs.

Shop drug plans. Whether you are considering Part D or some other drug plan, be sure to check the coverage of your individual drugs before joining. Some plans cover only one brand name for some medical conditions or cover only generics when they are available.

Ask about generics. Generic drugs are cheaper than brand names. Some drug plans will cover all or most of the cost of generics but a lower percentage of brand names.

Pill splitting. In the odd world of medicine pricing, a pill with a large dose often costs the same or close to the same as a smaller dose. Ask your physician if a larger dose is available and if a prescription can be written for that dose. Then, you can split the pills in half, cutting costs by up to half. Most pharmacies sell pill splitters for this purpose. Be sure to discuss this with your physician or pharmacist before taking action.

Other discount programs. Most pharmaceutical companies and drug store chains still run their own discount programs for either seniors or low-income people of any age. Some charge annual fees; some don’t. All have a maximum income qualification, and the amount varies considerably between the plans. If you think you might be eligible, check with the makers of medications you use regularly and also with the major drug store chains in your area.

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