Has this ever happened to you? I went to pick up a prescription from a large pharmacy chain, and they told me that my insurance no longer covers that medication, and the out-of-pocket cost will be $160. Standing there trying every discount I could find on various apps, I managed to reduce the cost to $130.
Knowing that I was researching this topic, I did not fill the prescription and went home to apply my research to a real-life situation.
What I learned is that we are on the cusp of major changes in the way prescriptions can be filled. While traditional drug chains will still be the preferred choice for many, it is great to know that we have other options, especially with online pharmacies. It is possible that some of these online pharmacies may offer lower prices without insurance than what you are currently paying with insurance. This is also true for those who are on a Part D plan through Medicare (it will be interesting to see what new prescription pricing will be as a result of the new Inflation Reduction Act, though it could be years away).
So, what can you do if you have a prescription that is either not covered or too expensive with insurance? Let’s look at some of your options (this is not an endorsement, but I wanted to outline choices):
- GoodRx: It’s a great idea to have the free app on your smartphone or one of their free “discount cards” in your wallet. Just presenting the app or card could lead to savings, even on pet prescriptions. There is also a GoodRx Gold program which offers additional benefits for an additional cost, including $19 telehealth visits.
- Prescription savings programs at Walgreens, Costco, and Walmart, to name a few: Walgreens charges a small fee, Costco’s Club is free if you are a Costco member, and Walmart has a free Discount Pharmacy Card but within the last few weeks has added even lower prescription prices if you sign-up for their Walmart + Rx which is part of their Walmart + program. This program is so new that we haven’t been able to research prices or find a website link as of this date.
- Amazon Pharmacy: It has taken several years, but the Amazon pharmacy is now available in all 50 states. They offer both generic and brand name drugs. If you are already a Prime member, which includes free delivery, then it may be worth looking at pricing for your prescriptions.
- CostPlusDrugs: This is Mark Cuban’s new venture and may end up being one of the biggest disrupters in the industry. Every day they are adding new medications to their list and their stated goal is to dramatically reduce the cost of drugs and introduce transparency to pricing. Eventually, they will even manufacture some of the medications. Pricing for certain medications is shockingly low.
- Scriptco: This online pharmacy has a membership cost of $50/quarter or $140/year. Look up some of your medications as there may be huge savings. Using this site could make sense if you have several prescriptions with large co-pays or out-of-pocket costs.
I was curious how these sites compared to each other. I looked up a 30-day supply of Atorvastatin (a common generic cholesterol medication). The prices for a one-month supply without insurance range from $15.00 at Walgreens using the Walgreens Prescription Savings Club, $11.99 at Costco, $10.40 at Amazon Pharmacy, $3.60 at CostPlusDrugs, and $0.54 through Scriptco. Other drugs have even bigger differences.
Just like finding the best airfares, finding the best pricing for prescriptions means it is more time consuming for us. And if you can’t find what you need from the list above, there are other companies with similar offerings, including GeniusRx, HealthWarehouse, HoneyBeeHealth, and Ropharmacy (per Consumer Reports). I imagine over the next few years, this will be a very fluid list.
Things to be aware of as you investigate these sites are whether shipping is free, do they ship to your location, and the number of days for delivery. Also, not every online pharmacy is available in every state. Some of the drawbacks of using these services is the hassle factor of dealing with more than one pharmacy, the fact that each site has its own list of medications, the need to get new prescriptions from your doctor, and not having one pharmacy tracking all your medications. But, as prescription costs continue to soar, it is nice to know you have choices.
Applying this information to my own situation enabled me to find my prescription for $66 at Amazon, a big enough savings so that I do not mind the inconvenience of calling my doctor to get a new prescription to send to the Amazon Pharmacy.
It is not surprising that after years of rising prices, new companies are stepping in to provide more choices. In a world with Uber, Airbnb, and Netflix, it feels about time that we have new tools to lower our prescription costs. Here’s hoping that a little work will add up to a lot of savings!
If you have any questions regarding any of the options discussed above, please contact a member of the SWP team.
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