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Saturday December 9, 2023

Savvy Living

Savvy Senior

How to Save on Prescription Drug Costs

Prices keep increasing for my prescription medications, even with my Medicare prescription drug insurance. Can you recommend any tips that can help cut my costs?

The high cost of prescription drugs is an ongoing problem affecting everyone, most notably seniors. Seniors tend to feel the impact more due to their greater need for medications and because not all of their drug costs are covered by Medicare.

While the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 will help seniors save on their medications by negotiating lower drug prices and capping out-of-pocket spending at $2,000, it will be a few years before the law is fully phased in. In the meantime, here are some different strategies that may help reduce your prescription costs.

Talk to your doctor: First review your medications at least once a year with your primary care doctor to determine if any can be stopped or reduced. If you are taking any brand-name drugs, check to see if they are available in a generic alternative. For long-term prescription drugs, you may want to ask your doctor what the price might be for a three or six-month prescription instead of a monthly supply for potential cost savings. While the cost per pill is reduced, your total price will increase since you will be purchasing at a higher volume. Additionally, consult with your doctor to see whether your prescription allows you to partake in pill-splitting. Pill-splitting is the practice of dividing a medicine tablet into two pieces. This practice can get you twice as many pills for the same price. If you do this, your doctor will need to write the prescription for twice the dosage you need.

Review your insurance: Carefully review your drug coverage during the open enrollment period, which runs October 15 through December 7 for Medicare beneficiaries. Make sure all your regular medications are covered in the plan's formulary, that your current pharmacy is in the plan's network and that your plan covers additional medication coverage in the gap. To shop and compare Medicare prescription drug plans go to Medicare.gov/plan-compare.

Pay cash: Not using insurance for prescriptions seems counterintuitive, but in some cases, it may save you money. For example, many chain pharmacies and big-box retail stores have their own prescription savings programs that may be lower than your insurance copayment. Another option is to check out a price comparison platform for prescription drugs. These websites often provide coupons to help you save up to 80% off the list price of generic and some brand-name drugs in certain pharmacies.

Shop online: You can also save on regularly used medications by having them delivered to your home from a mail-order pharmacy. Check with your health insurance provider or usual pharmacy to see if this is an option and whether it is more cost effective. If this is not an option, check online pharmacies and compare prices. With these, you may spend less in some cases than you might with insurance.

Get more help: If your income is limited, you may also be able to get financial help through Medicare's Extra Help program (Medicare.gov/basics/costs/help/drug-costs), your state pharmaceutical assistance program (Medicare.gov/plan-compare/#/pharmaceutical-assistance-program/states) or patient assistance programs (Medicare.gov/pharmaceutical-assistance-program). Visit each website to see if you are eligible and learn how to apply.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living" book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization's official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

Published September 8, 2023
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