Anyone who takes prescription drugs can understand the cost burden that may be associated with them. And Medicare beneficiaries aren’t spared from high drug costs, either. In fact, Original Medicare (Medicare Part A and Part B) doesn’t typically provide any coverage at all for prescription medications.
But Original Medicare’s lack of retail prescription drug coverage notwithstanding, there are still several ways beneficiaries can reduce their spending on medications. Here are six ways to do just that.
1. Shop for the best drug plan
Each type of plan will bring its own premiums, deductibles and copayments or coinsurance, so it’s easy to see how you can save money on your prescription drugs simply by shopping around for the best rate available in your area.
And it’s just as important to note that each Medicare prescription drug plan will have its own drug formulary, which is the list of drugs covered under the plan. You’ll want to review the formulary for each plan you consider to make sure the drugs you take are covered.
2. Don’t go without drug coverage
Although Medicare Part D is optional, there is a fee added to your monthly premium if you go without creditable drug coverage of at least 63 consecutive days after your Medicare Initial Enrollment Period ends. The Part D late enrollment penalty will be part of your monthly Part D premium for as long as you remain enrolled in a plan.
Sign up for your Part D plan on time and don’t allow a lapse in your drug coverage to avoid any late penalties.
3. Only visit in-network pharmacies
While that pharmacy you pass on the way home is convenient, it also may be more expensive than the one that’s a little more out of the way if it’s not part of your plan network.
Medicare Advantage prescription drug plans and Medicare Part D plans typically include preferred pharmacies. You will typically pay more for your drugs if you visit a pharmacy that’s not part of your plan’s network.
4. Seek generic drugs
It never hurts to ask your doctor if a generic form of a prescribed drug is available. Generic drugs are typically less expensive than their brand-name counterparts, often significantly so. There may be a particular reason your doctor wants you on the brand-name version, but it never hurts to ask.
5. Take advantage of mail-order home delivery for prescriptions
Many Medicare drug plans offer mail delivery of prescriptions, and often at no extra charge. Not only can you save a few bucks on gas by eliminating trips to the pharmacy, but mail-order services often allow you to order a 90-day supply at a reduced cost, much like bulk-ordering food or other products where the more you buy, the more you save. Prescriptions filled at a pharmacy are often bound by 30- or 60-day restrictions.
6. Look into a drug savings program
Extra Help is a Medicare Part D savings program that helps pay for premiums, deductibles and refill costs for eligible participants. The program is available to beneficiaries with limited financial resources and can be applied for through the Social Security Administration.
Take advantage of these opportunities and you can make 2021 the year to save money on your prescription drugs.
Christian Worstell is a Medicare and senior health writer. He is passionate about helping people navigate the complexities of Medicare and understand their coverage options.
His work has been featured in outlets such as Vox, MSN, and The Washington Post, and he is a frequent contributor to health care and finance blogs.
Christian is a graduate of Shippensburg University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He currently lives in Raleigh, NC.