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Smart Benefits: Five Ways to Save on Prescription Drugs

Monday, December 26, 2016

 

The rising costs of prescription drugs are straining family budgets. And according to a poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation of over 1,200 adults nationally, affordability of these medications top the public’s list of priorities for the President and Congress. While consumers wait for change, they can lower their drug spending by taking advantage of a number of cost-saving opportunities, including: 

Shop around. Prices for drugs can vary widely between pharmacies. If a plan doesn’t have a preferred pharmacy, members should compare costs at multiple pharmacies.  Walmart and Target both offer $4 30-day generic refills for certain medications. For more options, there are a number of free online tools and apps like GoodRx and OneRx that compare prices for drugs in a certain geographic area.

Consider switching to a generic or other less expensive alternative. Consumers should ask their physician if they can try a generic version of prescription medication. According to the FDA, choosing generic over brand-name drugs generally saves shoppers as much as 80-85 percent. If a generic’s not available, patients should review their health plan’s prescription drug tiers and ask their doctor if they can switch to a clinically equivalent drug on a lower tiered formulary list. 

Split pills. Since many drugs cost about the same per pill, no matter the dosage, patients should ask their physician if they can shift to a prescription for half as many pills at double the strength. Then they simply need to use a pill splitter to cut the tablets in two.

Change to mail order for maintenance medications. For drugs taken on a regular basis, patients can get up to a three-month supply through mail order for a lower copay than they’d be responsible for at retail. 

Review insurance plan options. During open enrollment, consumers should compare options. Key things to consider are formulary lists so patients can determine whether their medications are covered and in what price tier as well as deductibles. For example, if a patient has to pay the full cost of high-priced medications until they meet their deductible, it may make sense to choose a plan with a higher monthly premium and a lower deductible.

Rob Calise is the Managing Director, Employee Benefits. of Cornerstone|Gencorp, where he helps clients control the costs of employee benefits by focusing on consumer driven strategies and on how to best utilize the tax savings tools the government provides. Rob serves as Chairman of the Board of United Benefit Advisors, and is a board member of the Blue Cross & Blue Shield of RI Broker Advisory Board, United HealthCare of New England Broker Advisory Board and Rhode Island Business Healthcare Advisors Council. He is also a member of the National Association of Health Underwriters (NAHU), American Health Insurance Association (AHIA) and the Employers Council on Flexible Compensation (ECFC), as well as various human resource associations. Rob is a graduate of Bryant University with a BS in Finance.

 

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