Friday, November 4, 2011

Prescription Savings Clubs

Prescription Savings Clubs CAN save you a lot of money.

UPDATE:  Prescription savings clubs should NOT be confused with things like the "National Prescription Savings Network" (or whatever name they are using this week - that says it all) which might cost you more money that simply using your insurance card.   Over the years, the Walmart prescription club became less and less attractive (I am not sure they offer it anymore) and I switched to using an online pharmacy,

In the health care debate, one thing many people overlook is that the free market economy does work, to some extent, and you can save a lot of money on health care, if you do shop around. Perhaps now that more Americans will be forced to buy health insurance, there will be more competition in that segment. 31 million new customers are up for grabs, and the company with the lowest costs will likely win them (these are 31 million people who previously thought health insurance was not worthwhile, so they will tend to pay less, and certainly no more than the $750 fine imposed for not buying anything).

Prescription drug savings clubs have cropped up nearly everywhere lately, like spring daisies. Drug stores, grocery stores, and even wholesale clubs are offering these plans. For a nominal yearly fee, they offer to fill your prescriptions for flat rates. Usually there is a price sheet with listings of costs of certain prescriptions. If you have a medication you have to take daily, this can be a big savings.

For example, I take Allopurinol for Gout. I take 300 mg a day. Before, I had a 30-day prescription which cost about $12 to fill at the local pharmacy. My co-pay with my health insurance was $10, so it was not even worth dealing with the insurance on that one. While it was not an expensive prescription by any means, it was costing me $144 a year. Plus, I had to go back every 30 days and get it refilled.

Under the Walgreens prescription drug plan, I can get a 90-day supply of this drug for $9 a bottle. There is also a $20 annual fee. So a yearly supply is now $56, and I don't have to drive to the drugstore every 30 days. Savings? $88. Not bad for taking 10 minutes to sign up for a plan and calling my doctor to have my prescription changed to 90 days.

Plus, that plan offers 10% off on store brand items, and of course, if I should need another prescription, I get the same plan applied to those as well. I can also use my Blue Cross plan to fill prescriptions, but I have a choice now.

Other pharmacies and grocery stores offer similar plans. CVS has a competing plan, and I am told there is no signup fee. Wal-Mart, Wegmans, and other grocery chains have similar plans as well.

Even if you are taking a "cheap" medication like I am, it is worthwhile to explore such plans. Even saving $88 is worthwhile. That's a nice dinner for two at a nice restaurant with a decent bottle of wine, right there. Why throw it away?

Update:  I have since switched to Winn-Dixie, which charges no annual fee and charges me $9.99 for a 90-day supply of this drug.   This is a considerable savings over the $12.95 I was paying per month.  And the funny thing is, no one will volunteer to tell you about these savings.   Walgreens was happy to let me keep paying $12.95 a month forever, without mentioning any options.  It is not like buying a Value Meal at McDonald's, where the cash register will automatically ring up at the lower price.

Total savings, by going to Winn-Dixie?   $115.44 a year.  With no annual fee!

They all seem to list about the same generics.

Note that the CVS "Caremark" plan is not a Prescription savings plan, but just some computerized junk to get you to move your prescriptions to them.  It offers few discounts.

See if a generic will work in place of a 'name brand' drug, or if you are taking a generic, explore one of these programs.  It can actually be cheaper than your health insurance plan co-pay!

Note also that when Patents for drugs expire, many drug makers will offer "new and improved" drugs, which of course are Patented.  And your Doctor may be treated to a trip to Aruba to attend a conference extolling the virtues of this new drug.  If your Doctor suggests, suddenly, switching to a new drug, be sure to explore whether he is trying to take you off a generic (or soon-to-be generic, like Lipitor) just to placate his handlers at the pharmaceutical company.  If so, switch doctors!