Best Ways to Save: August 2016

Best Ways to Save: August 2016

Avoid Problems With Mail Order Pharmacies

Filling prescriptions by using mail order pharmacies is convenient, especially for chronic conditions, like high blood pressure and cholesterol control.  Today most insurers encourage their enrollees to order prescriptions by mail by offering lower co-pays and sometimes free generics when the option is used.  While the system can be good when it works, there’s a lot that can go wrong due to the sheer level of automation.

Here are a few tips to avoid problems:

When a new drug is prescribed: Ask your doctor for the name of the drug, the dosage you will take, and find out whether you can try a generic if a brand name is prescribed.  Ask for two prescriptions — a 30-day supply that you can fill at a local retail pharmacy and a 90-day supply with refills that you fax to your health plan’s mail pharmacy if this is the first time using it.  If you are already using the mail order pharmacy, give the pharmacy info to your physician.  Check the pharmacy’s prescription info before filling to make sure it agrees with what your doctor told you.

Contact your health or drug plan’s preferred mail order pharmacy:  If you haven’t already done so, call your drug plan and ask about mail order pharmacy and how their system works.  When you call the plan you will be taken through a series of automated prompts.  Listen through the menu for “prescription orders” or wait until given an option for an “operator” or “for any other questions.”  To get the full details, be sure to speak to a live person on the phone.

Learn how the mail order pharmacy works and ask questions:  Ask the operator to explain the insurer’s policies about mail orders.  What does the insurer do when a prescription is expired or close to it?  Does the company call the physician to renew it?  If so, learn if you can flag your account for “no refills, without verification and prior consent of customer.”  If the mail order pharmacy doesn’t offer that service, then make sure your healthcare providers know you do not want prescriptions renewed without your prior consent.  If you take meds that require refrigeration or other special handling, ask how shipments are packed and mailed.

Avoid “auto ship” options and directly order prescriptions each time by phone or online:  You keep more control of the process this way.  You will need a reminder system set about two or three weeks ahead to allow time for the processing and shipment of your prescriptions.  Ask the mail order pharmacy if they can mail or email you a reminder.  Phone reminders may not be desirable, especially if you are letting an answering machine screen your calls.

Don’t keep a credit card on file with the pharmacy:  The lack of a credit card will not necessarily interfere with the filling of your order.  Find out whether your mail order pharmacy will bill you or whether you can enter credit card info online, or by phone. Reminder:  NEVER give out your credit card info to strangers calling you on the phone; only when you make the call so that you know you really have the pharmacy.