When you have medical insurance, it’s easy to assume that you have to use that policy to buy prescription drugs. This can be a costly mistake.
Sometimes going through a health plan means you’ll pay a lot more than using a free pharmacy discount or even paying out of pocket.
Luckily, there’s an easy way to check and find the best prices for prescriptions near you, with or without insurance.
I tried driving this way to save money because I have a different insurer this year, and with that change came a big increase in the price of some prescriptions.
What I found was that every drug I was prescribed would cost less – a lot less – if I didn’t go through my insurance plan but instead relied on finding stores that offered the best direct prizes or on the use of free GoodRx coupons.
For example, a prescription that would cost over $200 a year if I used my insurance plan would cost about $50 with GoodRx coupons, or just four cents (yes, $0.04) from Publix’s pharmacy without any coupon.
Note: Several Florida news outlets reported last week that Publix would end its “free prescription program” for certain medications on June 1. But even if it starts charging $7.50 instead of a penny for a 90-day supply, as noted, that still might be the best deal.
Here’s a second example: With another drug, I found I could save $925 a year by buying it at the Harris Teeter Pharmacy with a GoodRx coupon instead of going through my insurance plan.
If these examples inspire you to shop around for drug prices, here’s how I found the best deals:
- First, make a list of your prescriptions, including the amount you normally receive each time and what you paid for.
- Second, go online to goodrx.com and see how much you could afford. The website will show prices for many pharmacies in your zip code, including pharmacies in grocery stores and big box stores.
- Third, if the best prices you find are with GoodRx coupons, download or print them, or send them to your phone. It’s free.
I admit I don’t really know how GoodRx works, and I don’t care. Since it was recommended to me by my doctor and a pharmacist, I have found it to be a great way to save money.
If you decide to skip your health coverage to save money on prescriptions, be aware that any money you spend outside of your plan will not count towards any deductible you may have.
It matters, however, if you have a health savings account or a flexible spending account. Both types of tax-advantaged plans can be used for eligible medical expenses you pay, whether or not an insurer is involved.
One thing you’re likely to find while price shopping is that grocery store pharmacies typically have significantly better prices than stand-alone pharmacies whether you’re paying out of pocket or with a coupon.
It’s unfortunate that even having an expensive health insurance plan doesn’t mean getting the best prices on pharmaceuticals.
The good news is that spending a few minutes online can reveal whether the insurance company’s price is a good deal or a bad deal, and where to find the best prices nearby.
If you don’t have internet access or aren’t comfortable online, do this instead: The next time you pick up a prescription, ask the pharmacist what it would cost if you used a GoodRx coupon instead of your insurance.
You might find a better deal this way, but finding the best price near you by checking online would work even better.
Reach David Slade at 843-937-5552. Follow him on Twitter @DSladeNews.