Ask a Pharmacist: Save on Your Prescription DrugsPosted by Medicare Made Clear
Information about your medications from UnitedHealthcare Medicare and Retirement Chief Pharmacy Officer Mike Anderson, Pharm.D.
Question: My prescription drug costs are starting to add up. What can I do to save money?
Answer: The cost of prescription drugs is a concern for many people. You may have prescription drug coverage through a Part D or Medicare Advantage (Part C) plan. Or you may be paying for the cost of your prescription drugs on your own.
The good news is that there are plenty of things you can do to help lower your spending on prescription drugs. Take a look at the suggestions below for some helpful ideas.
- Talk with your doctor. Take time during your annual wellness visit to review all your medications with your doctor. If you’ve been taking a drug for a long time, there may be a lower-cost alternative.
- Take your medications as directed. It’s important to take all your medications according to your doctor’s instructions. This may help you keep your condition from getting worse, or from needing to add more expensive drugs to your treatment. Talk to your doctor if cost ever becomes an issue in taking your drugs as directed.
- Check your bill, like you would at a restaurant. Mix-ups can happen between pharmacies and insurance companies with getting drugs correctly coded and billed. Finding errors in billing could save you money and help prevent health care waste.
- Use your plan’s preferred pharmacies. Your Medicare plan may have an agreement with certain pharmacies to offer certain drugs for a lower copay than a regular in-network pharmacy. And it’s easy to switch: you can just bring your old prescription drug containers to the new pharmacy.
- Try a mail-order pharmacy. Getting maintenance drugs (those drugs you take regularly) through a mail-order pharmacy can allow you to pay less for a 90-day supply of the drug. For example, you might pay what you’d normally pay for two months of the drug at your pharmacy for a three-month supply.
- Sign up for a pharmacy discount program. Some pharmacies offer discounts for certain prescription drugs when you sign up for a low- or no-cost program. This is especially helpful if you don’t have Medicare prescription drug coverage.
- Switch to generics whenever possible. The cost of a generic drug can be dramatically lower than its brand-name equivalent. And the U.S. Food and Drug Administration certifies that the generic versions are as effective and safe as their brand-name counterparts as well. We’ll explore this option in greater depth in a future Ask a Pharmacist article, but keep this in mind as an effective cost-saving step.
- Check into state subsidy programs. Many states have pharmaceutical assistance programs to help low-income seniors pay for gaps in coverage and cost-sharing not covered by Medicare Part D.
- Find out about discounts at the source. Some pharmaceutical companies offer assistance programs for the drugs they manufacture. To see which prescription drugs may qualify, and details about the discount, go to Medicare.gov.
- See if you qualify for Extra Help. Extra Help is a Medicare program designed to help certain beneficiaries cover prescription drug costs. You need to meet specific income and resource requirements to be eligible.
- Review your Medicare Part D plan. Every year during Medicare Annual Enrollment (October 15 through December 7), people with Medicare can make changes to their Medicare plans for the coming year. That’s the time you should check the formularies of your various Part C or Part D options to see how much your prescriptions drugs would cost over the course of the coming year. Make sure to calculate your estimated total cost of prescription drugs over the year, not just premium or deductible costs.
- Use your preventive care benefits. You know the old expression, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”? Well, recent changes to Medicare have added several preventive care services to covered benefits. Make sure you take full advantage of your coverage and get your mammograms, colonoscopies, vaccines and other health screenings. Typically, if you can identify a health issue earlier, it’s easier—and cheaper—to fix, and takes less medication.
- Choose a healthier lifestyle. Sometimes you can reduce the number or type of medications you need to take by making healthy lifestyle changes. These include things like adopting a healthier diet, quitting smoking, drinking moderately, losing excess weight and starting an exercise program.Please note: Talk to your doctor before making diet changes or starting an exercise program. And definitely get your doctor’s go-ahead before you stop taking any medications.
Expand your knowledge via video.
Want to watch a short video on saving on prescription drugs that’s funny and informative? See what UnitedHealthcare member Peter has to say about the topic.
This Medicare Made Clear blog post is part of the ongoing “Ask a Pharmacist” series, which addresses common questions about prescription drugs and other medications. Read other articles in this series for more answers to your questions on medication.
For more information, explore MedicareMadeClear.com or contact the Medicare helpline 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), TTY 1-877-486-2048.
Medicare Made Clear: Learn how Medicare Part D costs are calculated, including a couple of different scenarios of prescription drug costs with and without Part D coverage.
Medicare Part D Coverage – Prescription Drug Plans: Check out this section of the Medicare Made Clear website, complete with a video on Part D.