Big-box generic drug plans: Good even for the insured?

Filed Under: Costs, Health plans, Patients

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Many of the big chain pharmacies now have generic prescription plans, which allow customers to get their meds for as low as $4 for a 90-day supply.

We looked at these plans briefly a while back, but wanted to return because pharmacy plans might be a good option for both people with and without prescription drug coverage.

First, here is a very quick rundown of a handful of plans covering prescription drugs, often generics but sometimes brand-name ones also: From Walgreens to Walmart and Target to CVS, chains now offer customers a way to fill prescriptions for bargain-basement prices.

  • Plans tend to offer to fill prescriptions for between $4 (Target) and $20 (KMart) for a 90-day supply.
  • Some have a sign-up cost.
  • All usually cover several hundred different generic meds.
  • Some stores, like Rite Aid, also offer discounts up to 20 percent on many brand-name drugs.

Companies will remind you these plans are not health insurance. And they’re not. But they may be a good option for those don’t have insurance to cover their meds. In fact, it might even be good for those who do.

We recently came across several accounts from people who opted for a pharmacy plan over the old insurance-and-co-pay drug option because it saved them money–sometimes hundreds of dollars a year.

Take this story from Consumerist.com by David, who found that his wife’s insurance plan charged $288 for a prescription widely available for $24. He ended up buying it at the local supermarket chain’s pharmacy, and saving a bundle.

GonzoMMX was similarly outraged after discovering that his prescription for the generic simvastatin (for

which he paid a $15 co-pay for a 30-day supply) could be had for less than $9 for a 30-day supply, or about $15 for a 90-day supply.

“I’ve been paying almost DOUBLE for the same drug with my prescription plan copay… for over 18 months!” he wrote. Then he got mad: “I HAVE A $15 PER MONTH COPAY FOR A DRUG THAT COSTS LESS THAN $9… and nobody thought this was an important tidbit of knowledge to pass on to me.”

Insured or no, sit down with your bills, and check out your options. For more information, check out this piece on Health Central on the Wal-Mart plan that offers additional tips for the insured, like this:

“If you have an insurance plan for your prescription drugs, check that plan again.  Most insurance companies are detailing how you can obtain low cost substitutes for brand name prescription drugs, and are giving out valuable information that will make you a more informed health care consumer.  At the very least you will be armed with more intelligent data before you talk with your doctor.”

You can also take a look at a breakdown of the CVS versus Walgreens plans by Living Stingy, and one on saving money on prescriptions from Daily Cheapskate, which also includes links to coupons and vouchers for popular drugs

 

Do you have suggestions or similar stories? E-mail us: info [at] clearhealthcosts [dot] com.

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