4 Ways Seniors Can Slash Prescription Costs

Table of Contents:

  1. Choose the Right Part D Plan
  2. Ask for Generics
  3. Order Your Medications in Bulk
  4. Look into Manufacturer Discounts

Healthcare is one of the senior community’s greatest ongoing expenses, and medications account for a big part of that expenditure. Sadly, rising prescription costs coupled with coverage limitations under Medicare Part D can force even the most frugal of seniors to either skimp on medications or pay now and suffer the financial consequences after the fact.

Part of the problem stems from the dreaded Medicare Part D donut hole. Most Part D plans have a coverage gap that kicks in once seniors rack up a certain tab for prescriptions. For 2019, once you and your plan spend $3,820 on covered medications, you fall into the donut hole.* From that point on through the end of the year, your prescription costs can increase.

Here are 4 ways to keep your medication costs as low as possible:

Choose the Right Part D Plan

All Part D drug plans have what is known as a formulary that determines how medications are classified. Drugs are grouped into different tiers that dictate their out-of-pocket costs for plan participants.

Medications that fall into your plan’s lowest tier could cost you just a few dollars in copays, and sometimes come with no copays at all. Medications that fall into higher tiers, by contrast, can cost a small fortune. That’s why it’s critical to find the right Part D plan — one that places the medications you take into a more favorable (and affordable) tier.

But don’t just choose an initial Part D plan and stick with it indefinitely. Plan formularies can change from year to year, so the coverage you get for the medications you take can change drastically. Similarly, your medication needs can change from year to year, so it pays to shop around for different Part D plans during Medicare’s open enrollment period, which runs from October 15 through December 7 annually.

Ask for Generics

Many brand-name medications have generic equivalents that come with a fraction of the copay. Generic medications, by law, must have the same formulas and be available in the same doses as their brand-name counterparts, which means you can forgo the fancy label without compromising on the quality of the medications you take.

Order Your Medications in Bulk

Many seniors take the same medications on a long-term basis. Ordering drugs in bulk could cut down your copays substantially, so check to see if the medications you renew monthly are available in three-month supplies instead, either by mail or in person through your local pharmacy.

Look into Manufacturer Discounts

Some pharmaceutical companies offer medications at a discount to seniors who would otherwise encounter staggering out-of-pocket costs. If you’re taking a brand-name drug, it pays to see if such an assistance program exists for it. If no such plan is available, don’t be shy about asking your doctor for free samples — medical offices get them all the time.

Your prescriptions shouldn’t bankrupt you during retirement or cause undue financial hardship. Being proactive can help keep your medication costs at a manageable rate.

For additional tips on how to cut prescription costs, check out Medicare Resources.

Maurie Backman has been writing about personal finance and healthcare for well over a decade. Her articles have appeared on The Motley Fool, CNN Business, USA Today, and MSN. Maurie is a Binghamton University graduate who enjoys reading, hiking, watching hockey, and rejoicing in the fact that her creative writing degree actually amounted to something.

* Anonymous, (2019). Costs in the coverage gap. The Official U.S. Government Site for Medicare. Retrieved September, 2019