Health care costs, which include everything from hospital and doctor bills to the cost of pharmaceuticals, home health services, etc., consume more than 16% of the nations economic output. At the current growth rate of over 7% per year, costs can be expected to consume almost 20% in the near future. Prescription drugs represent the most rapidly expanding component of health care expenses, with a double digit rate of inflation approaching 11%.
With about half of all Americans taking prescription drugs today and the cost of the drugs escalating at 11%, it’s no wonder that people are looking for cost effective ways to reduce their Rx expenses. Extensive direct to consumer advertising on TV and in the news leave people with a narrow focus as to which drug is the best for their condition and their wallet. Anyone that watches TV today will certainly be exposed to a plethora of drug advertising, which, unfortunately, can result in a bias towards a heavily advertised drug, as opposed to an equally effective, but lower cost, drug.
Here are 10 tips to help reduce your Rx costs:
- Generics Versus Brand Name Drugs – Both versions contain the same active ingredients, so don’t be afraid to ask your physician if there is a suitable generic alternative. In Collier County, the average cost of a generic drug is between $18.00 and $24.00, whereas the average cost of a brand drug is between $$96.00 and $110.00. Be a wise consumer!
- Obtain Larger Quantities – Many insurance plans allow you to purchase a 30 day supply at a retail pharmacy and as much as a 90 day supply from your plan’s mail-order pharmacy, generally for a lower equivalent copay. When you take maintenance medication for chronic conditions, such as birth control pills, blood pressure pills, pills to lower cholesterol, etc., explore the possibility of mail-order. Be a wise consumer!
- Shop Around – If you are not covered by insurance, if you have a high deductible HSA plan or if you have large out of pocket expenses under Medicare Part D, you will benefit by shopping around. Most pharmacies have convenient web sites that will allow you to price medications in the convenience of your home. You will be very surprised at the cost differences, even within the same drugstore chain. Also, the State of Florida has prepared a wonderful web site that prices the most commonly prescribed drugs at local pharmacies. It can be found at www.myfloridarx.com. Be a wise consumer!
- Choice of Medications – The pharmaceutical industry is constantly introducing new drugs, which, unfortunately, receive the most attention. However, these drugs are usually more costly. Ask your physician whether he could recommend a less costly alternative drug from the same family of medications. You can identify alternative medications by using www.rxaminer.com, or a similar site. Be a wise consumer!
- Strength of Pill and Pill Splitting – With your physician’s permission, many pills can be split resulting in a considerable savings. For example, if you require a 10mg dosage, see if your physician will prescribe a 20mg dosage and split the pill in half. If you have a $50 per prescription copay, splitting the pill will save you $300 per year. You will need to invest about $5.00 for a good pill splitter, however, remember that not every pill may be split safely and obtaining your physician’s permission is very important. Be a wise consumer!
- Drug Assistance Programs – Many drug companies now offer free medications for individuals, based upon need. www.azandme.com is the Astra Zeneca site and other drug manufactures offer similar services through their home page. Be a wise consumer!
- Government Programs – Medicare and Medicaid have drug programs available which can reduce or eliminate your drug expenditures. Simply refer to the respective agency web site. Be a wise consumer!
- Physicians Samples – Drug companies generally provide physicians with samples of their latest, greatest and most frequently prescribed medications. Before you start on a new medication, always ask your physician for free samples. You never know whether you may have an adverse reaction to that medication, so why invest in a full months supply before you know whether you can tolerate the medications? Be a wise consumer!
- Be Knowledgeable about Your insurance Plan – Virtually every insurance plan has a drug formulary. This formulary includes the drugs that will be eligible for reimbursement under your plan and will generally determine the amount of your copay. Most insurance plans include a three tier formulary, covering Generics, Preferred Brands, and Non-Preferred Brand drugs. Your copays will generally be the lowest if you choose the generic medications. Your highest copays will be associated with the non-preferred medications. Some carriers have even added a fourth tier with an even higher copay for expensive medications for which there is a less costly brand or generic alternative. Access to your drug formulary will generally be available through the carrier Home Page. Also, remember to use your mail order plan if you require maintenance medication. You will often save as much as one copay if you use your mail order options. Be a wise consumer!
- Generics Versus Brand Drugs – This is worth repeating. There is a very significant price differential between generic medications and brand medications, as well as, their associated copays. It is important for you to always ask your physician whether he can prescribe a generic medication that will produce the same results as the much more costly brand drug. Be a wise consumer!
Although these 10 suggestions may take some time and effort on your part, they may significantly reduce your overall prescription drug expenditures. It’s always best to be a wise consumer of health care services!