9 ways to help save on prescriptions

Follow these tips to help save money at the pharmacy

When your doctor prescribes a medication that can resolve a health issue, it can be a relief — yet medication costs can also add up, even if you have prescription coverage. These tips may help minimize your prescription drug costs.

1. Choose a network pharmacy

If you have prescription coverage, look for pharmacies that are within your insurance provider’s network. Otherwise, you might have to pay the full retail price for your prescriptions. UnitedHealthcare members can search for network pharmacies by signing into your member account or using the Optum Rx® network pharmacy search.

2. Check into home delivery options

Does your prescription medication benefit include home delivery? If you have Optum Rx, UnitedHealthcare’s pharmacy service provider, you can enroll in just a few steps when you sign into your account or call the number on your member ID card. You’ll save time on trips to the pharmacy — and you may save money too. In many cases you can order up to a 3-month supply — and there’s usually no charge for standard shipping within the U.S. 

3. Order online

Even if your prescription benefit doesn’t include home delivery, or if you don’t have prescription coverage, look into a mail-order pharmacy. In addition to pharmacies like Optum Rx online, you can sign up with stores like Costco. Mail order pharmacies often ship nationally, and because they have less overhead than brick-and-mortar pharmacies, they’re generally able to offer better prices. And if you do have insurance, your coverage will usually include mail-order prescriptions. 

4. Use discount programs

With discount programs like Optum Perks, you can print coupons, save them to your phone, or access them at checkout using a free discount card. While you can’t use these programs with your insurance, in some cases, the coupon price may be better than your copay — many programs offer savings of up to 80% off the retail price. You can search your medication to find the best prices — and you can even set up home deliveries.

5. Ask for generics when you can

For brand-name drugs, the average copay is $55.82, according to the Association for Accessible Medicines. But for generics, the average copay is just $6.61.1 In most cases, generic versions of medication contain the same active ingredients, making them identical to the more expensive brand-name version. So if you’re currently taking a brand-name drug, ask your doctor or pharmacist about switching to a generic. “Hands down, this is usually one of the easiest ways to save money on prescription medications,” says Nicole Broadhurst, lead medical billing advocate at Tennessee Health Advocates LLC in Crossville, Tennessee.

6. Switch to a different form of the same drug

If you’re currently taking your medication in standard pill form, ask your pharmacist what other formulations are available. You may be able to switch to a capsule, cream or ointment that costs less. The savings will vary, but according to a 2022 study published in JAMA Health Forum, this change could save you as much as 40%.

7. Ask for a 90-day supply

If you buy medication in bulk, you may save money. You may pay more up front, but it ends up costing less per day. So if you’re currently getting 30-day supplies, see if you can increase it to 90 days. Many insurance plans will allow this, so if you have insurance, call your provider and ask if you can get a larger supply.

8. Reach out to assistance programs

Some drug companies offer patient assistance programs for low-income, high-need people. To find and apply for those programs, you can usually visit the drug maker’s website. In addition, there are state and federal discount programs that you may qualify for. These include:

  • Medicare Extra Help  — This program is available specifically to Medicare patients who need help with their Part D plan.
  • State Pharmaceutical Assistance Program  — Use this search tool to find assistance programs funded by the state you live in.
  • Medicine Assistance Tool  — This database can help you find public and private assistance programs. Use it to see if you can find one that applies to you.

9. Talk to your doctor

Your doctor is a reliable resource for finding ways to save money on surgeries, tests and medications. If you find that a certain medication is too expensive, your doctor may be able to prescribe a less expensive alternative. 

If you take multiple medications, ask your doctor or pharmacist for a full medication review. About a quarter of all Americans take 3 prescription drugs, and about 13% take more than 5, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.1 You may not need some of them anymore. If you get the green light to stop taking a medication, you can count that as a 100% discount.

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