Ways to Save on Prescription Drugs and Vaccinations
To manage chronic health conditions or treat illnesses, patients must have access to the medications they need. However, prescription drugs can be expensive, even with insurance coverage, and many people can’t afford to fill their prescriptions.
People of all ages also need to receive routine vaccinations to protect against infectious diseases and other illnesses, but vaccines can be out of reach for those without health insurance. Here are some ways to save on prescription drugs and vaccinations:
Medicare Drug Price Negotiations
In August, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced that 10 prescription drugs would be subject to Medicare price negotiations under the Inflation Reduction Act, an effort to lower the high cost of prescription drugs for elderly adults. Medicare has previously been prohibited from negotiating drug costs, but next year Medicare will be allowed to directly bargain with drug makers over the prices of costly medications, according to NBC News.
In October, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced that “all 10 drug companies whose drugs were selected for price negotiation with Medicare for the first cycle of the program have decided to participate in those negotiations.”
These costly and commonly used prescription drugs treat conditions that are prevalent among the Medicare population, NBC News reports. The following drugs were selected to undergo negotiations:
- Eliquis, a blood thinner
- Xarelto, a blood thinner
- Januvia, a diabetes drug
- Jardiance, a diabetes drug
- Enbrel, a rheumatoid arthritis drug
- Imbruvica, a drug for blood cancers
- Farxiga, a drug for diabetes, heart failure and chronic kidney disease
- Entresto, a heart failure drug
- Stelara, a drug for psoriasis and Crohn’s disease
- Fiasp and NovoLog, diabetes injections
In 2022, Medicare enrollees taking these 10 drugs covered under Part D paid a total of $3.4 billion in out-of-pocket costs, according to a press release from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
“We are pleased that all 10 drug companies will participate in Medicare drug price negotiations,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services press release. “We look forward to continuing this critical work to lower health care costs for the American people and ensure seniors don’t have to choose between paying for prescription drugs or putting food on the table.”
Negotiated prices will go into effect starting Jan. 1, 2026. In the future, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services will select for negotiation up to 15 more drugs covered under Part D for 2027, up to 15 more drugs for 2028 (including drugs covered under Part B and Part D), and up to 20 more drugs for each year after that, as required by the Inflation Reduction Act, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports.
“These negotiations can only help us move in the right direction of lowering drug costs and increasing access for these great medications to more patients,” said Mindy Leech, pharmacist and owner of Lee-King Pharmacy in Newnan. “These 10 drugs account for many of the prescriptions filled for Medicare patients at Lee-King, and they are also some of the most costly. Insurance companies assign these high copays to patients, and it often doesn’t even cover the cost that the pharmacy pays, so we lose money, too.”
More Tips to Save on Prescriptions
Stay on track with medications: Taking preventive medications can keep patients from getting stuck with expensive prescriptions and long-term healthcare costs down the line, Leech said.
Seek drug assistance programs: Medications such as insulins and blood thinners can be pricey. Drug companies offer drug assistance programs to help uninsured patients or individuals with high insurance copays. Patients who need assistance should speak with their doctor, and the doctor’s office can usually call the drug assistance program on the patient’s behalf to get the medication for a lower cost. Paperwork is usually required. Doctor’s offices also sometimes have medication samples, Leech added.
Shop at local pharmacies: Local pharmacies will take the time to help patients get the best possible price on a medication, Leech said. Lee-King Pharmacy will call the patient’s doctor and ask if the physician is willing to send over a prescription for a cheaper, similar medication. The pharmacy also assists patients with getting the cash price for a drug, which refers to the current price of the drug if it were purchased outside of insurance.
“If people don’t have prescription insurance, which everyone doesn’t always have, the local pharmacy can typically get the best cash price,” Leech said.
Use prescription savings cards: The GoodRx Prescription Savings Card allows customers to get discounts of up to 80 percent on most prescription drugs, including those for pets, at over 70,000 U.S. pharmacies. GoodRx is not insurance, and it can be used instead of insurance, Medicare or Medicaid, but not combined with them. Customers can get a free prescription savings card by completing a form at GoodRx.com. No expiration or fees are involved, according to the GoodRx website.
Use generics: Generic drugs have the same active ingredient(s) as the brand name drugs, and they’re usually less expensive.
Get a 90-day supply: This will reduce the number of trips to the pharmacy and could cost less than filling the prescription monthly.
Use mail-order or online pharmacies: Patients can often save money by receiving long-term medications through a mail-order pharmacy. Ordering a 90-day supply may have a lower co-pay. Online pharmacies, such as Cost Plus Drugs, can also help patients save money, but it’s important to check with your health plan or provider to make sure the program is safe and will cover your prescriptions, according to MedLine Plus.
Save on Vaccines
The COVID-19 vaccine will no longer be offered free of charge, which could be a hurdle for some people who either don’t have insurance or can’t afford to pay for the vaccine. To maintain good health, there are a number of other vaccines that people might consider receiving, such as flu, pneumonia, RSV and shingles vaccines. Lee-King Pharmacy is offering a solution to those who want to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
“The new COVID vaccine will be covered at our pharmacy for those without insurance through a government funded program,” Leech said. “I am happy to be a part of giving this vaccine to many in our community.”
For childhood immunizations, children without health insurance are eligible to receive a discounted rate at local health departments, including the Coweta County Health Department at 70 Hospital Road in Newnan. Most insurance/Medicaid covers immunizations, vision, hearing and dental screenings, according to the District 4 Georgia Department of Public Health website.