It is no surprise that the healthcare system in America is woefully inadequate. It is currently run by insurance companies whose main goal is to make themselves as much money as possible, and they can do this because of their enormous lobbying influence in Washington. It is because of this greed machine that so many people are without healthcare and have to pay huge out-of-pocket expenses for doctor's visits, procedures, and medication. But there are ways to save money on these things, especially medications. It is clear that the healthcare system in America needs a serious overhaul, but until then there are certainly ways we can save some money and still get the care we need.
The cost of prescription medications can really add up, especially for those who need multiple medications. Big pharmaceutical companies run the show here and their goal is – you guessed it – to make as much money as possible. But there are some ways to keep the cost of medications down that don't take too much time:
Ask for a generic medication: This should be the first thing you ask your doctor. Doctors may give you a brand name medication because of incentives from a company or just because they are used to writing it. It never hurts to ask for a generic as long as it will get the job done as well as the brand name. And there can be huge cost savings. There certainly are cases where a brand name medication may work better than a generic, but it doesn't hurt to ask.
Shop around: Many people are unfortunately unaware that you will pay different prices at different pharmacies for the same medication. Simply calling around to different pharmacies to see how much your medication will cost can save you lots of money. Some pharmacies even have special low prices for certain commonly prescribed medications. Generally, warehouse stores such as Costco and Sam's Club have much better prices than other pharmacies. It is definitely worth it to call or visit different pharmacies in your area to get the best price.
Consult the drug formulary: To add more confusion to the health insurance maze, not all insurances cover all medications the same way. It actually varies very widely, so it pays to check the formulary, which is the list of medications that your insurance will cover. Insurance might cover medication A for a disease, but not medication B. You should check with your doctor to see if they can preferably prescribe a drug which is already on the formulary. Being prescribed a non-formulary drug and getting sticker shock at the pharmacy is no fun.
Ask the doc for samples: Doctors get bombarded by drug reps who want them to prescribe their companies' medication. They sometimes give doctors samples of their medication. If the doctor tells you a brand name medication is necessary, be sure to ask for any samples they may have. That will at least give you a few days' supply so you can shop around at different pharmacies.
Ask for coupons: Similar to the last point, drug reps sometimes leave coupons for certain medications. Some websites also have coupons for various medications, such as needymeds.org. Many drug companies also have reduced cost programs for certain drugs. It never hurts to ask if something like this exists.
Ask for a second opinion: There can sometimes be more than one way to treat a condition. Certain levels of high blood pressure, for example, can be treated with a medication or simply with diet and exercise. When you get a potentially serious diagnosis and the doctor insists on one way of doing things, it might be worth it to get a second opinion. You can ask family and friends for any trusted doctors in the area and see if there may be an alternative. In the aforementioned example, controlling blood pressure with diet and exercise may be all that is needed, which can lead to better health overall and definitely some money saved. Some doctors may be quick to pull the trigger on prescribing medications, so that could be the right time to seek another opinion.
Use an FSA account: Many workplaces offer flex spending accounts to their employees. What these accounts do is set aside a portion of your pay for the year, decided by you, and give you a debit card with that amount that can be used on certain medical related expenses. It can be a game to see what exactly is eligible, but FSA money is certainly eligible to be spent on medication co-pays. The main advantage of an FSA is that the money you have set aside is not calculated as part of your income tax. So instead of using money that has already been taxed, you can use pre-tax money to pay for medication. Even if you do not go to the doctor much, FSA money can be used for certain over the counter medications as well.
As the famous saying goes, prevention is always better than cure. This applies to spiritual health as well as physical health. Practicing healthy habits such as staying active every day and eating right will lessen the chance of needing certain medications. Most people need the occasional antibiotic, but conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes can be controlled for the most part. These chronic diseases can be debilitating to your well-being and also your wallet. Your health can be looked at as an asset, just like any bank account you may have. If you don't take care of it, you will definitely be paying for it. Hopefully some of these tips will help ease the financial burden.