Thursday, December 31, 2009

Lower your health care costs today

While Congress debates health care reform, there are things that consumers can do right now that will help them save money on their health care costs, specifically on their prescription drugs.  First, ask your doctor if there is an alternative or generic version of a pill that they can prescribe you.  There's a reason why drugs costs as much as they do.  Advertising brand name drugs costs drug manufacturers a great deal of money.  As a consumer, you will pay for those high-profile Hollywood/sports celebrities hawking expensive prescription drugs.

Second, as with other common purchases, comparing costs of identical prescription drugs is a smart idea.  If you are fortunate enough to have several pharmacy chain stores in your area, shop your prescription around before getting it filled.  After visiting your doctor, it's easy to just want to get the prescription filled as soon as possible.  But, if you can wait, call 2-3 pharmacies to see what their prices are, if they will quote them over the phone.  Or, check their website.  Many drug stores have on-going promotions that will reward you with cash back or discounts for transferring your prescriptions from other pharmacies.  As long as the prescription to be filled is the same, why not pay as little as possible for it?

Third, see if the drug manufacturer participates in any patient assistance programs.  These programs provide discounted, and sometimes free, prescription drugs to qualified consumers.  Some sites to research include RxAssistNeedy Meds, and the Partnership for Prescription Assistance.  These sites list drug manufacturers who are participating in such programs.

Fourth, in addition to asking your doctor for an alternative or generic prescription, see if they have any samples that they can provide you.  Pharmaceutical sales representatives will often provide several to doctors as a way of introducing their products.  If not, your doctor may also point you to other resources for discounted prescriptions.

As always, be sure your doctor is aware of your health care decisions.  But, also keep in mind that an informed consumer is an empowered consumer.  You have options that can help keep you, and your wallet, healthy.