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Friday February 15, 2019

Savvy Living

Savvy Senior

How to Save Money on Your Medication

I take several medications for multiple health conditions and the prices keep going up, even with insurance. Can you recommend any tips that can help me save?

The rising cost of prescription drugs is a problem that stings millions of Americans. While there is not a simple solution, there are strategies and resources that can help reduce your drug costs so you can afford what you need. Here are several to consider.

If you have insurance, know your formulary: Most prescription drug plans today have formularies (a list of medications they cover) that place drugs into different "tiers." Drugs in each tier have a different cost. A drug in a lower tier will generally cost less than a drug in a higher tier. Higher tier drugs may require you to get permission or try another medication first before you can use them.

To get a copy of your plan's formulary, visit your drug plan's website or call the toll-free number on the back of your insurance card. Once you have this information, share it with your doctor so that he or she can prescribe you medications in the lower-cost tiers, when possible. In the alternative, your doctor can help you get coverage approval from your insurer if you need a more expensive drug.

Also, find out if your drug plan offers preferred pharmacies or a mail-order service. Buying your meds from these sources may also save you some money.

Talk to your doctor: Ask your doctor if any of the medications you are currently taking can be reduced or if you can stop taking them completely. Find out if the ones you must continue taking are available in generic form. About 80% of all premium drugs on the market today have a lower-cost alternative. Switching could save you between 20 and 90%.

Ask for a three-month prescription: This can be significantly cheaper for drugs you take long-term. If you use insurance, you will pay one co-pay rather than three.

Split your pills: Ask your doctor if the pills you are taking can be cut in half. Pill splitting allows you to get two months' worth of medicine for the price of one. If you do this, you will need to get a prescription from your doctor for twice the dosage you need.

Find and use online discounts: Start by trying online services such as GoodRx, BlinkHealth or WeRx. They will ask for the name of the drug, the dose, the number of pills and where you live. Then they will show you what you can expect to pay at various pharmacies if you use their discount coupons or vouchers, which you can print out or download to your phone to show a pharmacist.

Pay cash: Most generic medications cost less if you do not use insurance. For example, chains like Target and Walmart offer discount-drug programs that sell generics for as little as $4 for a 30-day supply and $10 for a 90-day supply if you pay out-of-pocket. While some insurance companies charge a $10 copay for a 30-day supply.

Also, ask your pharmacy if they offer a drug discount card program and compare costs with your insurance plan. You can also find free drug discount cards online through organizations like NeedyMeds. These cards can be used at most U.S. pharmacies.

Shop online: You may also save by using an online pharmacy, but be sure to use an online retailer that operates within the U.S. and is licensed. The website should display the VIPPS symbol, which shows it is a Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Site.

Search for drug assistance programs: If your income is limited, you may be eligible to receive help through drug assistance programs offered by pharmaceutical companies, government agencies and charitable organizations. To find these types of programs use services such as BenefitsCheckUp, Patient Advocate Foundation, RxAssist and NeedyMeds.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living” book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization’s official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

Published February 8, 2019
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