The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services last year took a series of steps to help President Trump live up to his promise to lower drug prices.
That included proposals to require insurers to list prices in television ads and a ban on so-called “gag clauses” preventing pharmacists from telling patients when a lower-cost medication is available.
While welcome, there’s no reason to wait for government to act or, perhaps more to the point, to believe drug makers will cooperate. Case in point: On the week before this past Thanksgiving, Pfizer announced it will raise prices on 41 of its prescription drugs in January after initially putting off those plans amid pressure from President Trump.
So, with all of that in mind, here are nine easy-to-implement strategies that any HR manager can share with their workforce to help everyone become a savvier prescription-drug consumer.
- Take time to comparison shop. Drug prices are not uniform; you can save a considerable amount of money by shopping around.
- Drug substitution. When your doctor prescribes a drug, be sure to ask if a cheaper alternative is available.
- Bulk buying. As you may know from your everyday shopping, it’s cheaper to buy in bulk. The same is true for drugs. Buying larger quantities at a time generally reduces the per-dose cost of drugs. This is especially true for generics purchased by mail.
- Mail-order pharmacies. Mail-order and Internet pharmacies offer the best deals on prescription drugs, especially for patients with chronic conditions.
- Pill splitting. Many prescription drugs are available at increased dosages for similar costs as smaller dosages. Prescribing half as many higher-strength pills and having the patient split them to achieve the desired dosage can reduce the cost of some medications as much as 50 percent. (Note: pill splitting is not safe for all medications. If a pill is FDA-approved for pill splitting, it will say so on the label or informational insert that comes with the prescription. The FDA recommends pills only be split if FDA-approved and after consulting with your doctor to ensure it is safe.)
- Over-the-counter drugs (OTC). Ask your doctor if an OTC drug will work just as well as a prescription drug. Today, there are hundreds of OTC drugs that were previously only available by prescription.
- Generic medications. Generic medications work as well as brand-name drugs and can cost 20 to 80 percent less. This applies for both prescriptions and OTC drugs.
- Samples. Drug companies give thousands of samples to doctors every year. Your doctor may be able to provide you with weeks’ worth of the medication at no charge.
- Discount prescription cards. Look into a discount card, either through a drugstore chain or a national plan. They can provide additional discounts on your prescriptions for a small monthly or annual fee.
Scott McGraw is Vice President of CCIG’s Employee Benefits division. He can be reached at 720-330-7924 or ScottM@thinkccig.com.
CCIG is a Denver-area insurance brokerage with the full-service capabilities of a national brokerage. We do more than make sure you have the right policy. We also help you manage your long-term cost of risk with our risk and claims management expertise and a commitment to service excellence.