Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Shop for Medications by Phone to Pay Less for Drugs

Squirrel investigates before he buries a nut
Explore the Cost of your Medications
Your health insurance is changing, and you can be better prepared if you learn from others who have already experienced some of the changes. If your medical insurance now has a high deductible, you may find that you'll pay for many of your prescription drugs before the insurance pays at all.
We've ordered our medications from an insurer-approved mail-order pharmacy, but they did not carry one drug we needed. That's when things got interesting. I asked the doctor to write a prescription for the medication so I could shop for the best price. I've never done that before, so I had no idea what to expect. Surprise, surprise!
When you shop for a drug, you have to ask for the cash price. Many pharmacies want to know your insurer and are reluctant to give you a cash price until you hand over the prescription. Make telephone calls to shop for the drug you need, but have the prescription in hand, since you'll need to give the exact dosage and quantity to the pharmacy tech. You may also get a better price with the generic drug, not a name brand -- if the drug is no longer under the original patent protection.
I started with Walgreen, since I expected this well-known pharmacy would carry the medication. Imagine my surprise that the cash price was $700. The local WalMart had the drug for $12.08, and a WalMart in the next town had the drug for $165. I finally found the medication at a local hospital pharmacy for $7 with some unknown portion charged to my insurance.
I was so curious about the different prices that I called the FDA -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration. A consumer contact person told me that the FDA does not regulate the prices of any drugs, and that they have no control over pricing.
If your medication is still high after shopping, you may inquire about the cost of a 90-day supply or even a prescription for a different dosage. Surprisingly, some medications are the same price if you buy 25mg or 50mg pills. You can get your physician to write the prescription for the larger dose and break the pills in half to get twice as much for the same cost.
If your health insurance has a large deductible this year and your prescription drugs are not covered until you meet the deductible, it's time to wise up and shop for your medications. You, too, may find that local prices range from $7 to $700 for 30 pills of the same drug. 
See you soon!