I have a prescription medication that should cost $20 for a month's supply, or $240 a year in co-pays. Yet, I pay about $27 annually for it, savings of almost 90%. By using health savings accounts, generic medicines, coupons and sales, and 90 day prescription medication supply, I save up to 90% on my prescription and over the counter medications.
Health Savings Account (HSA) or Flexible Spending Account (FSA)
Having a HSA or FSA means I can pay for medications with pretax dollars. Although ObamaCare rules require a prescription for OTC medications to be FSA or HSA reimbursable, doctors are often happy to give a master prescription containing common medications for allergies, heartburn, pain and fever. Prescription medicines co-pays and deductibles are HSA/FSA eligible. For 2013, the annual contribution maximum for HSA is $6,450 per family, excluding any employer contributions, while for FSA it is $2500 per employee. These accounts result in immediate savings equal to the income tax rate.
Most insurance companies have a 3-Tier pharmacy plan with different copays for generics, preferred (e.g. $20 for 30 day supply) and non-preferred brands (e.g. $40 for 30 day supply). If the doctor prescribes a medication that is non-preferred, I ask if there is a cheaper but equally good substitute (brand or generic). For prescription drugs, unless the doctor has written "DAW" on the prescription, most pharmacies will swap with generics. Most major superstores and supermarkets, including Wal-Mart Pharmacy , Target Pharmacy and even grocery chains like Kroger offer $4 for a 30 day supply of the most common generic medicines (including those for allergies, antibiotics, asthma, cardiac, cholesterol, diabetes, thyroid and prenatal or kids' vitamins).
90 day supply
For patients with regular prescriptions for chronic illnesses such as diabetes, heartburn, heart disease, and asthma and other pulmonary diseases, 90 day supply offers typical savings of 33% (3 month supply for a 2 month cost at retail). The most common generic meds that are available at Wal-Mart and Target for $4/month cost $10 for a 90 day prescription. Wal-Mart also offers the 90 day prescriptions by mail without a shipping charge, which costs much less than insurance mail order pharmacy.
Since it is expensive to re-key prices and change price stickers, I have often found local, non-chain pharmacies to be cheaper in general for non-sale OTC items. For prescription items prices without insurance coverage, price comparisons may be available online. Even though I have insurance, I do not hesitate to ask the pharmacist how much my co-pay will be since prices could still vary (or be unreasonably high), especially for non-preferred brands.
Use coupons and trial offers
Pharmaceutical companies typically have large marketing budgets, as such coupons and offers abound in newspapers and on websites. The contraceptive pills companies often insert $10 off coupons in women's fitness and glamor magazines. Nurses at doctors offices are happy to give away coupons for contact lens and branded medications (where generics are usually used). Many common OTC medications like Advil, Allegra, Maalox, Mucinex, Pepcid, Sudafed, Tylenol, etc., which have either paper coupons in newspapers or doctors' offices, or website offers worth $1-3, which I combine with in-store sales for maximum savings. This route ends up being cheaper than generic medicines, although it is hard to beat the "buy one get one" offers that are common amongst generics (where the pharmacies have a higher margin).
*Note: This was written by a Yahoo! contributor. Do you have a personal finance story that you'd like to share? Sign up with the Yahoo! Contributor Network to start publishing your own finance articles.More from this contributor: First Person: Getting the Maximum Benefit Out of Employee Benefits
First Person: How I Helped Save Over $7,200 Annually
- prescription drugs
- health savings accounts
- generic medicines