Tips for Saving Money on Prescription Drugs
Prescription drugs are one of the fastest growing expenses in the country, comprising up to 15% of health care costs. Seniors can be particularly hard hit, since they take more medicines than younger people. Fortunately, there are ways to save money on medications, according to Humana Pharmacy Solutions (HPS), the pharmacy arm of Humana, which manages 220 million prescriptions each year.
“Seniors need to know that there are programs and strategies available to help them save on their drug costs,” said William Fleming, PharD., vice president of HPS.
HPS offers the following tips to assist those 65 years old and older in saving on their prescription drugs.
1) Join a Medicare plan that includes prescription drug coverage. There are several types of plans available, including prescription drug plans (PDP), which cover only drugs, and Medicare Advantage plans with prescription drug coverage, which include drugs and other benefits. Beneficiaries can sign up for these plans when they first become eligible for Medicare, which is three months before or after their 65th birthday.
Like other insurance, there is generally a monthly premium and a yearly deductible. Additionally, members are responsible for copayments and coinsurance. Still, Medicare’s prescription drug coverage is a good deal, particularly for those without coverage. It could pay over half of a senior’s drug costs or more.
It’s important that seniors sign up quickly once eligible. Otherwise, they may have to pay a late enrollment penalty.
2) Know your formulary. A formulary is a list of drugs that a drug plan covers. Most prescription drugs used by people with Medicare are included on a plan’s formulary, but it’s important to check to be sure.
To compare formularies, visit the plan formulary finder at www.medicare.gov. If a drug isn’t available, then make sure there is coverage for a suitable alternative, which leads us to our next point.
3) Use generic alternatives when possible. According to one estimate, $25 billion could be saved annually by switching from brand-name to prescription drugs.
Every year, more drugs become available as generics, lowering their cost by up to 80%. Generics are available that treat diabetes, hypertension, depression and high cholesterol, to name a few conditions. Generics are rigorously tested by the FDA and are bioequivalent to their brand-name counterparts in quality, strength, purity and stability. Nevertheless, always seek your doctor’s advice before switching.
4) Take advantage of special offers. Many stores offer deep discounts on prescription drugs to win your business. Generic antibiotics, for example, are advertised at anywhere from no cost to $4. By taking advantage of these deals, seniors may delay reaching the Medicare coverage gap, where drugs aren’t covered.
Members should show their insurance card when taking advantage of these deals so purchases can be tracked and harmful interactions can be identified.
5) Consider mail-order prescriptions. Mail order can generally provide users with more medicine for less money. Humana offers zero copayment preferred generics through its mail-order pharmacy, RightSourceRxSM. To take advantage of mail-order services, seniors should ask their doctors to write a 90-day prescription.
6) When going to a pharmacy, make sure it’s in network. Going outside your plan’s network may cost more.
7) Seek help if you need it. Seniors with limited income may qualify for help. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recommends the following:
21 states offer help with paying premiums and/or other drug costs. To see a list of participating states, visit www.medicare.gov/spap.asp.
Many drug manufacturers offer assistance to people with Medicare. For a list of participating companies, visit www.medicare.gov/pap/index.asp.
Social Security may offer help, depending on your income. For details, call 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) or visit www.socialsecurity.gov.
For more information about these programs, visit www.benefitscheckup.org/humana.