Not having prescription drug coverage can be difficult. A health discount card’s value can be great. Whether you take one regular medication or multiple, paying out of pocket can become quite expensive. Some people even decide to stop taking their prescriptions, simply because they can no longer afford it.
Fortunately, there is a solution. Many companies, from AARP to pharmacies to non-profit organizations, offer discount prescription cards. Often, it’s free to join and the savings are worth it.
High Cost of Medications
We all know that medications can be costly. According to a New York Times report in 2013, prescription drugs make up 10 percent of the $2.7 trillion Americans spend on their health every year. That’s $270 billion. It may be no surprise, then, that many individuals struggle to pay for their medications.
Consumer Reports recently released the results of two surveys, which indicate that medical bills, including payments for prescription drugs, are a big problem for many Americans. People opt to spend less on groceries or postpone paying other bills just to cover the cost of their medications. For some individuals, it can be a greater strain on their monthly budget that paying their mortgage.
To counteract the high price of medications, many people have turned to generics. However, even generic drugs can be expensive. For example, a ten-day dose of a generic antibiotic drug can cost between $80 and $120 without prescription insurance. With the popularity of these alternative medications, their prices are soaring too.
Sometimes, a less-expensive generic is not even available for purchase. In particular, inhalers and other medications for asthma have not been released onto the market. Robin Levi, a lawyer from California has two daughters with severe asthma. She stated, “That first year, I had to take a lot of time from my job to deal with the asthma drugs, the prices, arguing with insurers—it was a frustrating saga.” She has to spend about $1,000 out of pocket every year for their medications, even with good insurance coverage.
Advantages to Discount Drug Cards
While it cannot serve as a replacement for prescription drug insurance, discount drug cards are available. These cards are usually free and are offered by many companies. Each card offers different savings, although it won’t become clear what your actual savings are until you purchase your prescriptions. But, the key is that you will be saving at least some money on your medications.
Consumer World conducted a study comparing the savings for four common prescription drugs using five different discount cards. The researchers found that savings varied widely, but the average was 16 percent off the cash price. For example, 30-day supply of a generic cholesterol-lowering drug, originally priced at $39.99, cost between $19.02 and $38.99, depending upon the discount drug card used. Of course, the pharmacy and type of medication also impacted the final price.
The study determined that it is nearly impossible to determine which discount card is best, but some savings were better than none. According to Edgar Dworsky, founder of Consumer World, “If you don’t have prescription coverage, you would be foolish not to get one of these cards, particularly the free ones, because it is such an easy way to save money.”
The cards are widely accepted throughout the country. Over 50,000 drugstores accept the discount cards.
Disadvantages to Discount Drug Cards
The sheer number of companies offering discount drug cards or other prescription coupons demonstrates their popularity. However, there are concerns that small savings now could result in high prices for everyone in the future. Sometimes, pharmaceutical companies offer coupons or cards to encourage people to purchase the brand-name drugs instead of generics. This drives up prices for insurers, and ultimately, you.
Other experts argue that the discount cards do not help the uninsured. They cards only help to cover a small percentage of the drug cost, and therefore are not a long-term solution.
Still others are concerned about privacy issues. The Los Angeles Times conducted an investigation of a popular discount card company. The author found that the company was partially owned by a marketing firm that was legally allowed to sell your personal information to other businesses. So, if you use the discount card to buy medication for lowering you cholesterol, you may receive more targeted mailings and emails advertising weight-loss products and the like.
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