One of the most positive results of being a news and information junkie is that I am constantly learning, especially about issues related to personal finance and economics. Monday, I was watching a segment from ABC’s “Good Morning America,” which spotlighted a family struggling with paying health care costs—particularly the cost of prescription drugs—in light of their unique circumstances. Although their circumstances are unique, the Florida family spotlighted in the piece represent the nearly 50% of Americans who need some form of prescription drugs (according to figures of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).
However, the family in the news segment was lucky in one respect; ABC brought in a noted health care advocate and author, Michelle Katz, to help show them ways in which they might trim down the cost of prescription drugs. Watching the piece, I was slightly taken aback by some of the little-known ways which you and I as consumers can advocate on our own behalves in saving money on prescription drugs (see video below).
1. Check your bill, like you would at a restaurant.
Believe it or not, there are codes for your drugs, and billing departments often get them wrong. In helping the family, Katz found one of those wrong codes on their bill. The family was being charged for a higher priced drug. Fixing the code immediately saved them $1,200.
2. Arm yourself with the Low RX App.
Drug prices fluctuate like gas prices. This app tells you what the average cost is for a particular drug and its generic, and arms you with the phone numbers of every pharmacy in your area. You can call other pharmacies to comparison shop. The app also shows discounts. In some cases, you can get up to 75% off.
3. Go to big wholesalers, even if you’re not a member.
The Low RX app revealed lower drug prices at Costco, which as it turned out, by law you can buy your prescription drugs there...even if you weren’t a member. Katz found the family's drugs at Costco for $100 less than elsewhere.
If you go to smaller mom-and-pop pharmacies, you can wheel and deal to bring the price down. Bringing cash can increase your bargaining power. Instead of paying $30 for a prescription at a local pharmacy, the Florida family secured the same prescription for $12 – an $18 savings.
5. You can go directly to the big drug companies.
Katz called and emailed large drug companies on behalf of the Florida family. She kept at it for weeks, providing proof of the family’s financial situation and even suggested that the family might have to stop buying its particular drug altogether.
6. Visit Needymeds.com.
Needymeds is a nonprofit group that offers grants, vouchers and patient assistance through its website.
7. Use an RX Access discount card.
Together Rx Access offers savings on brand-name and generic prescription products to individuals and families without prescription drug coverage, according to its website. With the help of Michelle Katz, the Florida family in the ABC News segment lowered their monthly prescription drug bill from $20,000.19 to $1,252.28, saving them $18,747.91.
If you're one of the nearly 50% of Americans who find themselves in need of prescription drugs, these tips should be a great starting point to lower drug costs. I've already uploaded the Low RX App to my tablet, and it works like a charm. And I hope to check out the other sites myself when (or if) I ever need them.
Learning is a good thing!