Budget-savvy ways to get the medicine your family needs
If you have little ones at home, odds are you’re often running to the pharmacy to pick up a prescription for an illness, an allergy, or other medical issue. And those medications can be expensive. However, there are ways to save on prescriptions.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act requires that certain medications be included in preventive-care coverage. These medications help prevent disease or other medical conditions. Preventive medication—including birth control—and certain over-the-counter medications may be available to you at no cost depending on your prescription-drug plan. Check your plan materials for information.
Through your prescription-drug coverage, there may be a home-delivery option that will mail you your regular prescriptions for less than it costs at the pharmacy. The incentive is for you to take your medication regularly to prevent worsening your condition—which costs your insurance company more money. This option is usually for medication you take on a regular basis for a chronic condition such as asthma, not onetime prescriptions for ear infections or other common childhood illnesses.
Shop around at local pharmacies. You’ll be surprised by how much you can save by driving a few blocks. Your medical insurance plan may have an online tool to help you get a price quote or compare prices at local retail pharmacies.
You can also shop at legitimate online pharmacies (state-licensed pharmacies located in the United States) for the best prices on prescription drugs. Avoid foreign pharmacies, as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate them.
Ask for generics
Generics cost pennies on the dollar for the same active ingredient in brand-name drugs. They are not inferior to the brand-name drugs. Generic drugs have the same active ingredients, dosage form, and route of administration as brand-name drugs, and they are FDA approved. Generic drugs do not need to contain the same inactive ingredients as the brand-name drug. Generics become available once the patent expires on a brand-name drug. Information on generic medication is available on the FDA website.
Ask your doctor
If your doctor writes a prescription for you or one of your children, ask the doctor if it is a generic or if there is a generic equivalent. Your insurance may cover only the generic, and that could leave you stuck paying the difference for the brand name. You might ask your doctor if he or she has a free sample of the drug to give to you. Pharmaceutical companies often provide doctors with samples of their brand-name medications. Also ask if there is an over-the-counter, nonprescription option.
Ask the drug company
Most pharmaceutical companies offer assistance programs that give free or low-cost medicines to people in need. Check with the pharmaceutical company that manufactures your medicine to find out whether you qualify for its program. Several companies offer discount drug cards. Each company has its own eligibility criteria—in most cases, U.S. citizenship and some proof of income. You can initiate the process by calling the pharmaceutical company to request forms. Fill out the form, and take it to your doctor’s office, as a doctor’s signature is required.
Partnership for Prescription Assistance
The Partnership for Prescription Assistance provides access to public and private assistance programs, including programs offered by drug companies, Medicare, and other government programs.
If you don’t have the money you need to cover the cost of your medications, you may be eligible for coverage through Medicaid or for drug-assistance programs in your state. Medicaid is a joint federal and state program that pays for medical assistance for those with low incomes. All states provide coverage for prescription drugs to eligible individuals within their state Medicaid programs.
Remember, whether you buy online or at a local pharmacy, be sure the pharmacist is aware of all the medications you or your children are taking to help avoid drug interactions. Include prescription and nonprescription drugs, herbal supplements, and vitamins. You want to be sure the medication you take makes you or your child better, not worse.
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Valli Kleven is a graduate of Smith College with a master’s degree in journalism from Syracuse University. She is also an author and Solo Mom thriving in Los Angeles.
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