8 Tips to Save Money on Your Medications

April 19, 2017

By: The My Medicare Matters team in partnership with FamilyWize

The average older adult has to take 5 or more medications per day. And these meds can be costly. Drug costs are increasing by about 5% each year. Even worse, roughly 12% of people age 65 and older have felt pressure to take less medication than they were prescribed–just to save a little money. Skimping on medications is terrible for your health, and ironically, often more costly than just taking the drugs as prescribed.

So if reducing your dosage isn’t the answer, how are you supposed to save money on your meds? Luckily, we’re here to help. Read on for our comprehensive guide.

1. Make your drug plan work for you

To start, make sure your medications are on your drug plan’s “formulary” (list of covered drugs). If one or more of your drugs is not covered, you may be required to pay out-of-pocket for the entire cost of said drug. If this applies to you, ask your doctor if they can switch you to a different drug that is on your plan’s formulary (and still treats your condition).

If your drugs are all covered but you’re still struggling with costs, talk to your doctor about switching to generic drugs. They usually cost less than brand name prescriptions. If generics aren’t an option, ask your doctor if you are able to switch to a lower-cost brand name drug that still treats your condition.

2. Apply for Medicare Extra Help

You may be able to get help paying your Medicare drug costs with a program called Medicare Extra Help. You can fill out the application here. Also called the “Part D low-income subsidy (LIS),” Extra Help is a Federal program that helps people with limited income and resources pay for their Part D premiums and drug costs.

As of 2017, anyone who qualifies for Extra Help will pay no more than $3.30 per generic drug and $8.25 per brand-name covered drug. However, please keep in mind that the amount of Extra Help you get depends on your income and resources. If you don’t qualify for Extra Help, your state may have programs that can help pay your prescription drug costs. Contact your Medicaid office or your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) for more information. You can learn more about Medicare Extra Help at Medicare.gov.

3. Apply for the SPAP program

State Pharmaceutical Assistance Programs (SPAPs) are state-run programs that assist low-income seniors and adults with disabilities in paying for their prescription drugs. SPAP coverage varies by state, but the programs generally provide Medicare Part D “wraparound” coverage, meaning that they pay costs that Medicare Part D does not pay. Unfortunately, fewer than half of all states offer an SPAP. To find out if one is available in your area, visit Medicare.gov and select your state from the drop-down menu.

4. Apply for help from a Patient Assistance Program (PAP)

Patient Assistance Programs (PAPs) are offered by some drug manufacturers to help seniors, low-income individuals, and persons with disabilities pay for pharmaceuticals. Program eligibility guidelines vary. Some PAPs offer limited supplies of free prescriptions to anyone with demonstrated financial need; other programs are limited to those who lack any type of insurance, or whose prescription drug coverage does not cover the medication being requested.

Wondering if you qualify for any of these programs? NCOA’s free online tool, BenefitsCheckUp®, can screen your personal eligibility for PAPs, SPAPs, and the Medicare Extra Help program.

5. Apply for help from a prescription assistance charity

Another great option is to reach out to a charity that financially assists people with certain illnesses and chronic conditions. For example, the CancerCare Co-Payment Assistance Foundation provides copay assistance if you’ve been prescribed medication for certain types of cancer. Similarly, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society provides copayment assistance for treatments related to Leukemia and Lymphoma.

To learn more, check out this list of charity programs that help pay for prescriptions.

6. Use a prescription discount card

Many organizations and companies offer prescription savings cards. For example, FamilyWize is a nonprofit organization that aims to make medications more affordable through a free prescription discount card that you can download here. The card can help you save as much as 40% on your medications on average. And it works for pet prescriptions too! So you can save money on Fido’s meds while you’re at it.

The FamilyWize card is accepted at all major chains (including Walgreens and CVS) as well as many independent pharmacies. You can also ask your local pharmacy whether it offers any specific savings cards.

7. Ask for samples

Ask your doctor if he/she can give you free samples of any of the medicines you take; many doctors are more than happy to oblige. This can also be a good strategy to tide you over if you’re waiting for a prescription to be refilled.

8. Go local

Finally, consider going local. Contact your county public health department to see if they have a free medicine program. Not sure where to start? Google your county government’s homepage and then try searching for “Department of Public Health” or “Medication Assistance” or “Free Medicine.”

Or just call the number on their “contact us” page and ask about options for medication assistance.