By Joanna Crain
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services projects that by 2016, prescription drug spending will rise to $497.5 billion, a 148% increase from 2005. With the increase in drug costs, insurance companies have removed certain drugs from their coverage or increased copays. That stinks!
Sure health care reforms are in the works, but who can afford to wait around until Congress decides what all that fine print means? And who knows how much financial relief is going to be offered anyway. Prescription drug costs are through the roof with no end in sight.
I’m one of the unfortunate ones who can’t afford insurance because of a serious pre-existing condition. You know the kind that puts you in a pool and sure they’ll partially insure you, but it’s going to cost over a grand a month. I have one med that costs me over $500 a month—which once led me to the legal but questionable practice of hopping over to Mexico and getting a three-month supply for a fraction of the U.S. cost. I’ve learned better and safer ways to save on my prescriptions since then.
Some patients who can’t afford their meds go without them or only take them periodically, which can be very dangerous. Some turn to online pharmacies with questionable reputations. Many online sources are not governed by a standard of practice and have been known to sell inferior products or even replace meds with placebos. This is certainly not the answer.
No matter your situation: insured, uninsured, Medicare recipient, you’re still affected by the price of prescription meds. I say take action, and take action NOW! Your health and your bank account depend upon it. Here are a few ways to relieve some of the pressures of ever growing prescription costs without compromising your health:
Ask for generics. Most doctors understand the needs of a patient who is in a tight financial situation and are usually more than willing to help. Ask about prescribing drugs that are not patent-protected and have a generic brand available. This will definitely help keep more money in your pocket.
Beg for samples. Doctors’ offices are filled with samples from pharmaceutical reps, even many newer meds are offered. Unfortunately, according to my doctor, samples are getting harder to come by from certain drug manufacturers, so hopefully the medication you’re looking for is abundant. Don’t limit asking for samples to your initial visit, many doctors will give samples if you just call them when you’re running low.
Inquire about alternative meds. Some meds are very popular, while others don’t get as much face time. The reason is not necessarily quality, but certain doctors are familiar with certain drugs and they play favorites. If your med is one of the higher priced ones, ask your doctor to explore an equivalent that is less pricey.
Go for higher dosages. Many higher dosage pills sell for almost the same price as a lower dosage. Some of these pills are scored to split. So say you have a 10 mg pill but your dosage is just 5 mg, you can split the pill and have twice the meds for nearly the same price as a lower dose. Use caution when splitting pills. Some are not made to split, such as time released meds.
Switch from single pills to combination pills. Some pills are a combination of two separate meds and are much less costly than taking each in a single dose. Ask your doctor about what’s available to you.
Apply for prescription assistance programs. Many drug companies offer prescription assistance programs to those who cannot afford their medications. There are income guidelines that must be met before you can get accepted. But once in, you can save big time.
Fill prescriptions at pharmacies with prescription clubs. There can be a big discrepancy in drug costs from pharmacy to pharmacy, so shop around. Many stores like Walmart (who offers over 300 meds for $4 each), Sam’s Club and Walgreens have prescription clubs that cost a little up front, but save you a lot over time.
Being faced with the difficult and outrageous situation of rising prescription drug costs means we’ve got to be proactive. If you have any additional ideas on how to save money when it comes to meds or would just like to tell your story, I’d love to hear it email me at [email protected]
Joanna Crain is a guest columnist for TheAustinTimes.com as well as a blogger/writer for MoneyCrashers.com—a personal guide to financial fitness.