Thursday, May 4, 2017

5 Ways You Can Save Money on Medicare Prescription Drugs

Medication costs can make up a large part of your budget, but a few tips on saving money can easily save you hundreds of dollars a year. 

The biggest single cost-saver? Picking the right Medicare plan.

Whether you are preparing to change your Medicare plan, or signing up for Medicare for the first time, you will want to make a careful selection so you don't end up spending more than you need to.

Asking your doctors a few key questions—such as, Is there a generic?—can save you a bundle more. 

Here are 5 tips you can save money on your prescription drugs:

1. Focus on choosing the right drug plan, which depends in part on which drugs you take.
The majority of seniors are enrolled under original Medicare, which includes hospital insurance (known as Medicare Part A) and medical insurance (Medicare Part B).
Getting drug coverage requires one of two additional extra steps. Seniors can either get drug benefits via a private plan regulated by the government, under what's called Medicare Part D, or they can get drug coverage bundled with a private Medicare Advantage plan. 

The alternative is a Medicare Advantage plan, also called Medicare Part C, which replaces original Medicare and often providesprescription-drug coverage as well. 

It is essentially a way to get Medicare A, B, and D all lumped into one. Medicare beneficiaries can enroll in Medicare Advantage to receive their benefits in a private health plan, such as a health maintenance organization (HMO).

You need to  evaluate on an individual basis which is your the best option. Depending on your prescriptions and other health care needs, Medicare Advantage may or may not be better for you than original Medicare.

2. Have Drugs Delivered.
For medications you take regularly for a chronic condition, opt for the convenience and potential cost-savings of mail-order. In addition to sparing you unnecessary trips to the pharmacy, mail-ordering can sometimes include a 90-day supply at a reduced cost, depending on your insurance company and what kind of meds you need.

Once you enroll in an insurance plan you should be able to go that insurer's website to order your prescriptions delivered, or you can do it over the phone.

Be sure to ask your doctor whether he or she needs to sign off on a 90-day supply. And take care to order refills before you need them so there isn't a gap of time when you don't have any pills.

Also beware of illegal pharmacies on the Internet, which can pose a serious danger by sending you fake or incorrect prescriptions. Legitimate pharmacies will ask for a faxed prescription from a licensed doctor and a detailed medical history. They will also clearly state their payment, privacy, and shipping fees, according to FBI warnings.

3. Go Generic.
Ask your doctor if this is an option. The brand-name version of the drug you take is significantly more expensive than the generic form, if one is available.For example, simvastatin is the generic version of the drug Zocor, which is prescribed to control elevated cholesterol. Thirty 40mg tablets of the brand version of the drug may cost between $88.90 and $113.20 a month, while the generic equivalent can go as low as $15 a month.

4. Double the Dosage, and Split the Pill. 
Sometimes pills that are double the dose of your medication cost the same as a single dose, and can easily be cut in half. For instance, if your doctor says you need a 10 mg dose of a particular drug each day, ask him or her whether your medication comes in doses of 20 mg and if they can safely be split in half.

Many drugs used to treat high blood pressure and depression can be split, as can all cholesterol-lowering drugs known as statins.
5. Enroll on Time.
The open enrollment period for Medicare is from October 15 to December 7, with changes taking effect January 1. You can enroll for the first time when you turn 65, and there are also Special Enrollment Periods for when you move or become eligible for Medicaid.
Though Medicare drug coverage is considered voluntary, you must be getting drug coverage from another source that is at least as good as the offerings through the federal government. If you do not, you can face a penalty fee that grows each month you delay enrollment.

If you are receiving another form of drug coverage, you may actually end up spending more if you sign up with Medicare. This applies to members of the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program, TRICARE (military health benefits), and Veterans Affairs. 

If you are an active worker on an employer plan, you will want to talk to your human resources department to make sure you understand all of your options.

If you have questions regarding your Medicare benefits, email me at 

Ask Will, or call (773) 614-3201.