Do you take prescription medications? Would you call them “affordable prescriptions,” or have your healthcare costs changed so dramatically that it’s hard to tell? It’s obvious that healthcare expenses are fluctuating, and the ongoing changes can make it hard to keep up. So today, let’s focus on your prescriptions and how you could save money when filling them.
Drug Costs Lowered From 2000 to 2013
To the surprise of many, the cost of prescriptions was in decline for 13 years. This is partially attributed to drug patents expiring (allowing generics to be manufactured) and decreases in generic prices. In fact, prescription spending was down to 1.6 percent in 2013. Unfortunately in 2014, prescription spending spiked by 11.4 percent.
How Has Prescription Spending Changed Recently?
While the consumer drug price index (the average change in the prices paid by consumers) has remained the same, brand name prescription drugs have steadily increased. Fortunately, generics remain affordable prescription drugs because prices are continually declining.
Let’s look at some specific examples. Specialty drugs that treat inflammatory conditions (up to $80 per member per year) and multiple sclerosis (up to $52) saw some of the steepest increases in 2014. Other normally affordable prescriptions, like those used to treat diabetes (up to $97) and high blood cholesterol (up to $48), also increased in cost in 2014.
What’s Making Prescription Costs Increase?
So, what made drug prices spike in 2014? The creation of new drug brands, increased prices for existing drugs, and fewer patent expirations all contributed.
Because new drug brands hold their own patents, generics cannot be created until that patent expires. No cheaper alternatives are available and there is no competition to force prices down. In the end, the brands set their own (high) prices. If drugs are being created faster than patents expire, prescription spending increases.
Ways to Save on Prescription Costs
The first way to save is to get a health insurance plan. A low-cost prescription drug plan allows you to share your prescription costs with an insurance company. Rather than paying for the entire cost of your medications, you would only have to pay a copay (or coinsurance percentage) for covered prescriptions. And luckily, prescription drug coverage is included in all qualified health plans as an essential benefit. You can also check potential plans’ drug formularies (the lists of prescriptions a plan covers) and compare them to the medications you use.
The second way would be to “map out” medication prices at different pharmacies. According to Consumer Reports, “prescription drug prices can vary widely from retailer to retailer, even within the same ZIP code.” So, you can compare your prescriptions at different pharmacies and find the least expensive location for you. There are even websites, like USARx, that can do it for you. Just remember that these will give you the price of the medication before health insurance.
The third option is for those who have long-term medications. You can try to get a 90-day supply, which is offered by many health insurance companies at a discounted price. They often pair the discount with convenient home delivery options.
Make Your Prescriptions Affordable with the Right Health Insurance Coverage
Not only can HealthMarkets help you choose between low-cost prescription drug plans, we can also help you find a plan that meets your unique financial and health coverage needs. Give us a call today at (800) 429-5058.