how to get prescriptions cheaper

Are you sick of paying too much money on your prescriptions, and need to know how to get prescriptions cheaper? Especially if you don't have insurance, or can't afford them? 

When my grandparents told me how much they pay per month for their prescription medications, I about fell off my chair. They need to know how to get prescriptions cheaper, and I'm guessing you do, too. 

Or, you just WANT to know, because you'd rather spend the extra money elsewhere. 

Let me help!

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Discount Prescriptions Without Insurance

At the beginning of each new fiscal year I, like many Americans, have a prescription drug deductible that I must meet before my health insurance will kick in. The particular prescription that I get normally has a copay of $35, but because of my annual prescription deductible, it is $85 one month a year. This year I thought I could outsmart this deductible by using one of those prescription drug savings cards that boasts 75% in conjunction with my insurance—the perfect scenario, if the card’s discount would work on my copay portion. Unfortunately, when I whipped out my discount card, the pharmacist said that this particular card would not work with health insurance. This led me to wonder…are there discount prescription cards that do work with health insurance?  And how do prescription discount cards work?

Characteristics of these Programs: How do Prescription Discount Cards Work?

You can sign up for prescription drug discount programs for free and everyone qualifies, whether or not you have health insurance, whether or not you have pre existing conditions, etc. The reason why these cards are free for everyone is because the companies make money through a referral fees paid by pharmacies for each prescription filled using this card. Other programs are sponsored through nonprofit organizations. The card can either be printed off on the website for instantaneous use, or it will be sent to you in the mail. Most of the programs are accepted in major retail pharmacies across the nation, such as CVS, Walgreens, Kroger’s, etc. Some programs even include discounts on pet medications, such as the SuperRxCard and the RxFreeCard. All FDA-approved brand and generic drugs are eligible for a discount, but not all drugs will have a discount.

Typical Savings from a Prescription Discount Card

These prescription drug savings cards seem to be popping up everywhere, each touting around the same amount of savings due to special relationships with pharmaceutical companies. I researched several, and while they advertise a 75% savings, they average a 10-32% savings based on the card (self-published data on several discount card websites: it pays to read the fine print). In fact, I searched for my particular medication, and the savings would have been just 7%. Generic medications will have the deepest discounts.

How Prescription Discount Cards Work with Health Insurance

Prescription discount cards are not just for the uninsured; however, most cards do not work with your health insurance. Several programs suggest taking both your health insurance card and the discount card and asking the pharmacist to figure out which will yield the most savings. This card is especially useful for prescription drugs that are not covered under your insurance plan.

Medicare patients can get discounts on prescriptions while in the donut hole. However, the Pharmacy Discount Network gave the following caveat to Medicare patients: 

“although this discount can be used as a Medicare Part D supplement by covering drugs once participants reach the “donut hole,” drugs purchased with this discount program will not count toward your Medicare deductible.”

If you find yourself in the donut hole, be sure to check with how using this card will affect you.

From what I have researched, it can’t hurt to sign onto a program because it is free, painless, and instantaneous. Those without health insurance will benefit the most from these programs. And if you take a medication not covered by your insurance or one that has a particularly high copay, then you will also benefit.

Cheapest Place to Get Prescriptions Filled Without Insurance

Transferring prescriptions and getting store gift cards for doing so is a great way to cut down on your cost of prescription medications.

But oftentimes, you are still paying an out of pocket $20-$35 copay. How about if you could be paying $4 or $10 in total for a 30 or 90-day supply of your prescription drugs? Many stores now have programs that offer this cost for a multitude of pills, such as antidepressants, antibiotics, and pills for Parkinson’s, asthma, heart condition (if this program had been around when my grandfather was alive perhaps he would not have sliced his heart pills into thirds to save on costs), topical medications, diuretics, thyroid, diabetes, hormones, muscle relaxants, etc. Work with your doctor to see if you can be switched to one of the available generic prescriptions in the programs below.

List of Prescription Drug Programs:

  • Wal-Mart’s $4/$10 Generic Prescription Drug Program was the first of its kind launched in September 2006. It is available in Wal-Mart stores, Neighborhood Markets, and Sam’s Clubs. Once again, prescriptions must be filled in person to begin with, and always picked up in person thereafter.  However, there is a WalMart Mail Service that offers some of these generic drugs at a $10 price delivered to your door. Be sure to inquire at a Wal-Mart pharmacy.
  • HEB's $4 Generic Prescription Drug Program
  • Walgreen’s Prescription Savings Club makes over 400 generic medications available for $12 for a 90-day supply. To be eligible, you must live in the US or Puerto Rico, and not be enrolled in a publicly funded health care program, such as Medicare, Medicaid or TRICARE. Enrollment costs $20 per individual for the year, and $35 for a family. You also receive a 10% discount on Walgreen’s branded products, photo services, and flu shots.
  • Target’s $4 Generic Drug Program offers over 300 generic medications for $4 for a 30-day supply and $10 for a 90-day supply.
  • Publix offers free 14-day supplies of 8 antibiotics, including the commonly prescribed penicillin and amoxicillin. Secret: there's more than just antibiotics on the list!
  • Rite Aid offers a discount Rx Savings Card that allows customers to purchase over 500 generic medications for $8.99 for a 30-day supply and $15.99 for a 90-day supply. Customers on government funded healthcare programs such as Medicare, Medicaid or TRICARE are ineligible. A 28-day-cycle pack of generic oral contraceptives is just $19.99, and you receive 15% discounts on name brand prescriptions and medications.