June 1, 2020

Edited 06/22/20

7 Tips To Save Money on Prescription Drugs

Are your prescriptions drug costs hurting your retirement savings?

Prescription drugs are a significant part of household expenses for many Americans. As one gets older, one tends to have more chronic medical conditions and need more medications. 

Plan premiums, including Medicare Part D, change every year to adjust for prescription drug costs. According to Consumer Report’s 2019 survey, thirty percent of Americans say their out-of-pocket costs for a drug increased in the past year and of those, 12 percent say it increased by $100 or more. Annual increase adjustments in premiums and prescription drugs make it hard for retirees to budget. 

Prescription Drugs Increase Healthcare Plans

In addition, companies carrying prescription plans may charge a monthly premium including Medicare for 2020 coverage. For Medicare policy holders, this extra monthly premium will be based on your income or Part D income-related monthly adjustment amount (Part D IRMAA). These extra premiums can range from $12 to $76 a month depending on your income. 

However, there are many ways to save money on prescription drugs while still getting the medical care that you need. Here are seven tips to save money on your pharmacy bills:

1. Switch to a Generic Brand

Consider switching to a generic drug if you are taking a name-brand drug. Ask your primary care doctor if it’s possible to make a switch, since generic drugs tend to be much cheaper, and they have the same active ingredients as name-brand drugs.

2. Stop Unnecessary Medications

At least once a year, review with your primary care doctor all of the medications you take, including over-the-counter medications and dietary supplements. Explicitly ask your doctor if there are any drugs you should stop taking. Your doctor may decide to eliminate certain medications that you don’t need anymore, which saves you money, too. This is an important process that often gets overlooked. 

Many patients take medications long after they are no longer needed, or take two medications that don’t interact well together, simply because several different doctors have ordered several different medications at different times without getting the whole picture of what the patient is currently taking. Don’t be shy about talking to your doctor about drug prices that concern you.

3. Review Medicare Part D Plan Formulary List

Pick a Medicare Part D plan that has all of your medications on its formulary. Most Medicare Part D plans and Medicare Advantage Plans have a formulary, which is their own list of covered drugs. Check to see whether all of your medications are on your plan’s formula. If not, you could either switch to a similar drug or pick a new Medicare Part D plan, if possible.

Many plans place drugs into several different tiers, associated with different costs. Look for a plan that has your medications in the lowest-cost tier. Be aware of annual changes to ensure that your plan continues to meet your needs. Medicare Part D plans can change their formula each year, so the plan that worked well for you last year might not be the best plan for you this year.

4. Get a Bigger Supply of Medication

Instead of filling a prescription that lasts for 30 days, see if you can save money by asking for a 90-day supply, so you can make just one copay every three months. This might work for medications you take long-term for a chronic condition.

5. Shop Around and Compare Prices

Shop around at different pharmacies, big-box chains and grocery stores. Prices can vary by location and retailer. Some pharmacies buy directly from drug manufacturers, and others use a middleman, which may increase prices. To compare prices, call stores in your area or use an app like WeRx or GoodRx.

6. Patient Assistance Programs

Look for patient assistance programs offered by drug manufacturers, listed on their websites. Some drug makers offer discount cards or free gift cards. Websites like RxAssist.org, NeedyMeds.org, and PPARx.org have information about programs to help patients afford pharmaceuticals.

7. Mail-order Pharmacy

If you have the option to order your medications via mail-order pharmacy, that can save you money and time. It usually involves a three-month supply or six-month supply for long-term medications.

It’s not uncommon for Americans to face difficult choices like refilling their medications for the month because they can be expensive. We don’t recommend cutting back on medications or taking a lower dose than directed, without a doctor’s approval.

If you are having trouble affording your medications, keep trying different cost-saving strategies and persist with it until you find a solution that works for you and your monthly budget. Ask for help from your pharmacist or primary care doctor if you find the cost-saving strategies are not working for you. By saving money on your prescription drugs, you can extend your retirement savings.

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