Friend and fellow Mental Health warrior Sarah Fader, CEO of Stigma Fighters, recently tweeted about problems she was having with her medication and insurance. I completely get how she feels. Medication is expensive, even with insurance. Co-pays, co-insurance, or flat out being denied by the insurance company are things most of us have faced, especially if you’re on long-term medications such as antidepressants, anti-anxiety meds, cholesterol meds, insulin, and others. Other than wishing I could help pay for her prescriptions, I knew there was nothing I or anyone could do.
Later that week, I had a doctor’s visit and received a new prescription when suddenly it became very clear. We are just doing this prescription thing all wrong. We are not taking advantage of the things that can work in our favor. We need to start acting like consumers. Here’s how:
1) Free samples – My doc stepped out of his office and returned with a bunch of sample boxes for this new medication; enough to last a while. Doctors’ offices are filled with free samples. I must see a sharply dressed pharmaceutical rep with a huge briefcase of medical goodies every time I’m in a doctor’s office. ASK FOR THEM! They have boxes of the stuff just collecting dust.
2) Discount cards – In addition to the samples, he handed me a discount card. Knowing that the prescription had already been transmitted to the pharmacy, I later went to the drive-thru window only to be told my co-pay was $144! Luckily I asked “Do you take this discount card” which said “Pay no more than $15” and good until June 2017. A 5-minute wait and my new total was now $15!!! You can even download or sign-up for a discount card on many pharmaceutical websites.
3) Generic – Now, I have heard that some generics aren’t as good as their designer counterparts such as the generic Z-PACK which are about as effective as a pack of Skittles. Generics can sometimes seem like you’re settling for store brand soda instead of Coke but they aren’t all bad. Ask your doctor if there is a generic version and its effectiveness. It can save you a ton of money.
4) Store promotions – Lots of the big store chains like Publix Supermarkets offer some common prescriptions for FREE. Yes, FREE. You can get antibiotics for nothing. My doc will always call in a prescription for my kids’ antibiotics to Publix. If your local chain offers this incentive, use it for the common meds and save your money for the ones that you have to pay for.
5) The Advocate – This one is my fave. Little did I know that many pharmaceutical companies employ advocates whose job it is to fight on your behalf with the insurance company. Often times, the pharmaceutical company will send you a complementary supply of medication to use until your insurance gets sorted out. I would have never believed this if I didn’t use this service multiple times.
It’s awful that we have to find shortcuts in order to be well. Medication is expensive. Doctors are expensive and insurance is expensive. But if we need it to be healthy and we’re being treated like this is a business, we might as well be smart shoppers.