Around one in three of all adults live with more than one long-term health condition. With modern medical technologies and supplies, many chronic conditions are manageable through a treatment program and a holistic healthy living approach.
Yet the cost of healthcare and medication is still a burden that comes with the healing journey. Between doctor’s appointments, various treatments, and out-of-pocket costs for medication, bills can easily pile up and become a headache.
This guide provides you with strategies and tips to help you navigate the costs of long-term medication and save your hard-earned dollars while you seek treatment.
Get to know your insurance plan
Many patients don’t know the extent of coverage offered through their insurance plan well enough. Make sure you ask your provider for a drug formulary, which is the list of prescription drugs covered by the plan. Your formulary will include different tiers of copayment as insurance coverage can vary for generic drugs, preferred drugs, and branded drugs.
If you feel like your coverage is not enough, you can consider changing your plan altogether or applying for a supplement plan. Especially for patients over 65, basic insurance coverage often does not suffice for all health care expenses. Supplement plans (usually called “Medigap”) can support you with out-of-pocket expenses.
Always do your market research
According to a survey of more than 250 pharmacies across the US, you can save anywhere from $100 to $5,400 a year by price shopping. Depending on the volume of medicines, availability in the region, demand, and even the location of the pharmaceutical store or retailer, the price can vary greatly.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution, so your best bet is to browse a couple of places before you purchase your medical needs. Large retail brands such as Walmart, Target, and Costco offer generic versions of brand-name drugs for much cheaper prices.
Opt for biosimilars or generic brands
Name-brand pharmaceuticals can be pretty costly. Although some medications are exclusively available in certain brands, for many long-term medical supplies you have different budget-friendly alternatives.
For biologic drugs (medications made out of materials that come from living organisms), there are biosimilars, which are cheaper counterparts with the same active ingredients. Biosimilars are available for many specialty medications, vaccines, and insulins.
Generics, on the other hand, are chemically identical to brand-name synthetic medications. Generic drugs can cost 20 percent to 70 percent less than branded products according to the FDA while having the exact same chemical composition and active ingredient.
Shop from online pharmacies
Shopping from online pharmacies allows you to access much more competitive prices for certain long-term medications. You can enjoy comparing prices, finding and ordering your specific needs, and having it delivered to your door from the comfort of your home. It’s convenient, discreet, and usually more budget-friendly.
There are also special discounts and exclusive campaigns on online pharmaceutical stores that can help you save quite a lot, so make sure to check regularly.
Online shopping is not just for drugs and medication–you can also shop online for special medical supplies and garments for chronic conditions and pain management. This way, you can access a wider range of options and high-quality medical products at competitive prices.
Keep an eye on discounts and loyalty programs
Many pharmacies offer loyalty programs with rewards and exclusive discounts. For example, Walgreens has a Prescription Savings Club program with annual membership fees of $20 for individuals and $35 for families covering spouses, all dependents younger than 23, and pets. Especially for patients using long-term medications, pharmacy cards and memberships can be pretty advantageous.
You may also be eligible to use certain discount coupons depending on your income, state of residence, and the pharmacy you are shopping from. For those who don’t have state or federally-funded insurance, drug savings cards are available for specific brand-name medications.
Apply for patient assistance programs and prescription coverage
Pharmaceutical companies, states, and nonprofit organizations also offer patient assistance programs (PAPs) for patients meeting income and other eligibility criteria to access medications for free or at lower prices. Charitable relief programs are also available nationwide and at the state level, such as the Patient Advocate Foundation Co-Pay Relief Program.
If you’re able to afford a prescription drug plan, also known as Medicare Part D or a standalone prescription drug plan (PDP), it can make a vast difference in drug costs. Some Medicare plans come with Part D as a benefit, so make sure to check out the details of your insurance first.
Stock up in bulk
If you’re using maintenance medications with a fixed dose for the long foreseeable term, it makes perfect sense to switch to 90-day fills rather than buying 30-day fills 12 times a year.
A 90-day supply can help you save up a lot compared to getting three 30-day refills. Whether you’re shopping via mail-order pharmacies, online, or in-store, purchasing your medication in bulk is actually much more budget-friendly.
Consider breaking down higher-dose pills
First, be mindful that not all medications are suitable for this method, and make sure to consult your doctor or pharmacist before considering it. Capsules, for example, are obviously not meant to be cut up, and some formulas lose effectiveness.
If your medication is suitable, ordering fewer pills in a higher dose and breaking it into smaller doses can help you cut down costs. You can get a pill cutter at drugstores or online to ensure accuracy.
Consult with your doctor
At any point, you can get consultancy from your health professional to reassess your situation. Some chronic conditions get better in time or at least require less medication to manage the symptoms. There are many variables in the equation, so your safest bet is always to ask your doctor. If you don’t have the time or means to schedule an appointment at your local health facility, you can also opt for telehealth services.
Health professionals can also prescribe budget-friendly alternatives of brand-name drugs, or even hand out complimentary samples of certain drugs that were sent to them by companies free of charge. You may also ask if they can direct you to any patient assistance programs to help with your medical expenses.