It’s no secret that while the costs of prescription medications continue to skyrocket, the majority of our incomes are not rising accordingly.
This is especially true for the elderly. How can you help your aging parents stay healthy when many are too embarrassed to mention the fact that they are skipping doses of their medications, just to save money?
You may be able to alleviate some of your parents’ stress by teaching them to use the internet to comparison shop their medication refills. (If Mom and Dad are not technically savvy or require assistance, offering to be in charge of refilling their medications for them will yield the same results.)
t all boils down to this: Like any business, your corner pharmacy stays afloat by making a profit. Pharmacies in particular use complicated formulas to establish their wholesale costs (and contracts) with various drug companies—and none of these formulas are transparent to the public. This means that the cost of a given medication can vary dramatically from pharmacy to pharmacy, even those in the same city or town. Believe it or not, having insurance coverage (private and/or Medicare) does not guarantee the customer will pay the lowest price. To the contrary: quite often, the cash, or self-pay, price is going to be the cheapest option, most notably when the medication is a generic and the sale is combined with a discount card (which may be found online using your search skills, and/or at physicians’ offices, etc.). Please note: not every medical condition and/or patient makes a good candidate for a generic substitution. Thyroid issues, as well as health issues in the elderly, in general, can be especially finicky to manage. Please track any changes in medication carefully and see your physician for a followup.)
These cards are not gimmicks. They work. (Well, I cannot vouch for all of them, of course.) It was my own doctor who told me about GoodRx, in fact, as he, too, is now “of a certain age” and swears by not only this website but by Google, in general. (He even helps his patients search online for the cheapest medications for their needs, prior to writing out a prescription.)
Of course, the downside is the fact that refilling Mom’s medications will require a few moments of internet sleuthing, as well as extra phone calls to her physician’s office and possible followup regarding the electronic filing of said prescription(s), and as mentioned above, followup with Mom to make sure she’s feeling fine.
However, saving real money is worth these few moments invested, not to mention, for some families this can mean being able to keep the electricity turned on while still taking much-needed medications.
Here are my three best tips for refilling your parents’ prescriptions for the lowest price:
- Always comparison shop prior to submitting that refill (or first prescription) GoodRx.com is an excellent starting point and takes mere seconds to use. WebMD.com is another favorite. Order their free prescription discount cards and carry them in your wallet. Try using these and the “self-pay” option (which means you’d like the prescription charged through without the insurance contract price) at your current pharmacy, or go online and type the name of the medication you need into the discount card websites. You may find yourself driving to a different pharmacy each time you need a refill, but saving several hundred dollars is worth a few minutes of your time.
- Do not blindly accept the name brand version of any medication from your doctor without questioning him or her first. Would a generic suit you (or Mom or Dad) equally well? The difference in cost will likely mean a savings of hundreds of dollars a month to your family, per prescription.
- Consider ordering from a reputable Canadian pharmacy. There is no substitute for health, and sometimes only a certain brand of medication will do. In these instances, you may find marked savings by having your medication filled across the Northern border. (Don’t forget tips 1 and 2 while you’re at it.)
I hope this information is useful to your family and that you will share it with others. If you, or anyone you know, is dealing with the stressors borne of aging and its impact on the extended family, I am here to help. Please reach out to me.
All the best,
Rabbi Scott Saulson