As we get older, one of the most expensive aspects of healthcare is the cost of prescriptions. Even with your Medicare Part D coverage, those monthly out-of-pocket costs can overwhelm your budget. In this post, we look at 10 ways you can save on prescription drugs.
1. Take Advantage of Your FREE Annual Wellness Exam
Medicare provides every beneficiary an annual wellness exam, at zero cost to you. This visit is an essential part of preventive care. It’s also the perfect time to talk to your doctor about your prescriptions.
Your doctor should have up-to-date information on whether any new medications might work better to treat your conditions. He or she also knows about alternatives that cost less but work just as well. It may even be that you no longer need a certain medication.
It also never hurts to ask about free samples. Depending on the cost of your prescriptions, this could save you hundreds of dollars.
Don’t forget to bring a list of your prescriptions and over-the-counter medications to your annual wellness exam. Your list should include both the prescription name and dosage.
2. Use Your Plan’s Preferred Pharmacy
Most Medicare Part D plans include a preferred pharmacy network. Filling prescriptions at an out-of-network pharmacy nearly always results in higher out-of-pocket costs to you. A common example is paying a $10 copay at a preferred pharmacy. However, if you go to an out-of-network pharmacy, the same drug may have a copay of $20 – or even more.
These costs add up quickly, particularly if you have multiple medications. Multiply these extra charges by 12 months in a year and you see why we recommend changing to a preferred pharmacy to save on prescription drugs.
3. Check State Pharmaceutical Assistance Programs
A state pharmaceutical assistance program (SPAP) helps residents in that state pay for their prescription medications. Often, the program tailors its coverage to medications for particular conditions, such as End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) and HIV/AIDS.
Not all states offer this type of assistance. Medicare Interactive provides a list of SPAPs that they update every year. Find it here.
4. Look into Discount Programs
If you’re willing to do a little research, you can compare prescription costs across a number of pharmacies. GoodRx is probably the most well-known site. Just enter the name of your prescription and click the “Find the Lowest Price” button. The site also offers free coupons that can bring even more savings.
5. Check into Prescription Assistance Programs
Some pharmaceutical companies offer prescription assistance programs (PAP) that provide medications at reduced costs and sometimes even free. These are typically reserved for people who do not have prescription coverage. However, some allow Medicare Part D beneficiaries to participate. Each pharmaceutical company has its own guidelines.
NeedyMeds is a good place to start; just look for your prescription on the list. As of January 29, 2019, the list includes 4,151 medications. It changes often, so check back occasionally to see if they added your medication. The list also includes over-the-counter medications with links to coupons and rebates.
6. Do You Qualify for Extra Help?
If you qualify for Extra Help from Medicare, your max out-of-pocket costs for prescriptions in 2019 are $3.40 for generics and $8.50 for name brands (assuming your plan covers the medication in question).
If you have Medicaid coverage, receive SSI benefits, or get help paying your Part B premiums through a Medicare Savings Program, you automatically qualify for Extra Help. You may also apply for Extra Help if you meet the income and resource requirements. In 2019, these are:
- Yearly income up to $18,210 (single) or $24,690 (married couple)
- Resources up to $14,100 (single) or $28,150 (married couple)
If you believe you qualify for Extra Help, complete your application on the Social Security website.
7. See if There Is an Over-the-Counter Version Available
Ever year, the FDA reclassifies a number of prescription medications for over-the-counter sale. Typically, this occurs once the FDA approves the active ingredient for over-the-counter status. For example, in recent years, medications to treat acid reflux and help with smoking cessation went from prescription-only to over-the-counter.
If your Part D plan stops covering one of your prescriptions, this may be the reason. See if there’s an over-the-counter version available. Or, talk to your doctor for more information. Often, the only real difference is the strength of the over-the-counter version.
8. Do You Qualify for a Medicare State Assistance Program?
We touched on this briefly when we talked about Extra Help. All 50 states offer assistance toward your Medicare coverage, assuming you meet the qualifications. Please see our article, Medicare State Assistance Programs: Help Paying for Medicare, for full details and links to each state’s program.
9. Compare Plans Carefully During Annual Enrollment
Medicare Annual Enrollment occurs every year from October 15 through December 7. It’s the perfect opportunity to review your Part D options. As we’ve said before, the monthly premium doesn’t tell the whole story when it comes to your costs. You need to look at premiums, deductibles, and copays to determine which plan is actually the most cost-efficient for you. And, of course, if it doesn’t cover your prescriptions, it doesn’t matter how cheap the plan is.
10. Talk to Medicare Solutions
Sifting through your prescription plan options can be incredibly confusing. Why not let us help? The licensed agents at Medicare Solutions have one goal: Helping you find the best coverage at the best price. Call us toll-free at 855-350-8101 to get started.
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