Best Ways to Save: November 2017

Best Ways to Save: November 2017

Switching Drug Plans Can Save Big Money — Here’s Proof
By Mary Johnson, Editor

Unlike the way Medicare negotiates costs for all other medical services and medical equipment, the program doesn’t have the authority to negotiate drug prices. That leaves older U.S. consumers paying higher prices than people who get their medications through the VA Administration or state Medicaid programs. And because Medicare isn’t negotiating on our behalf, there’s no consistency in drug pricing between Part D drug plans either. Prices vary enormously, and new research for TSCL indicates millions of drug plan enrollees are getting gouged when they don’t compare and switch to better plans.

Just how bad is it? We were stunned to learn just how big the disparity in drug prices can be. Recently I compared the highest and lowest prices of the top ten most-prescribed drugs in the U.S. using the Medicare drug plan finder. In my area, a monthly supply of diabetes drug Lantus Solostar for example, ranges from a high of $682.00 from the mail order pharmacy of First Health Part D Value Plus plan to a low of $77.75 from the network retail pharmacies for SilverScript Choice. In fact, the cost difference between the highest and lowest-cost plans for the ten drugs compared averaged $593 per month!

The costs shown in the chart below assume coverage started on September 1, 2017. Costs include premiums, deductibles, and out-of-pocket cost sharing for 2017. Costs are estimates, and actual costs may vary somewhat depending on the pharmacy. The prices in our chart are likely to change for 2018.

Part D: Plan Price Variation of the Top 10 Most-Prescribed Medicines

Drug Generic Lowest Price Per 30 Day Supply Highest Price Per 30 Day Supply $ Difference % Difference



Humana Walmart Rx Plan (mail order)


Anthem Blue Medicare Rx Premier (retail or mail order)

$134.50 791%



WellCare Classic (mail order0


Express Scripts Medicare – Value (mail order)





No generic $70.00

Humana Walmart Rx Plan (retail)


Anthem Blue Medicare Rx Premier (mail order)

$119.00 170%



Cigna-HealthSpring Rx Secure (retail)


Anthem Blue Medicare Rx Plus (mail order)

$411.75 686%
Advair Diskus



No generic $85.50

First Health Part D Value Plus (retail)


Symphonix Value Rx (mail order)

$770.75 901%
Lantus Solostar

(insulin glargine)

No generic $77.75

SilverScript Choice (retail)


First Health Part D Value Plus (mail order)


$604.25 777%


No generic $175.25

AARP Medicare Rx Preferred (retail)


Anthem Blue Medicare Rx Premier (mail order)

$443.00 253%


No generic $77.75

SilverScript Choice (retail)


AARP Medicare Rx Walgreens (retail)

$443.50 570%
Spiriva Handihaler


No generic $166.75

First Health Part D Value Plus (retail)


SilverScript Plus (mail order)

$1,993.00 1195%


No generic $77.75

SilverScript Choice (retail)


AARP Medicare Rx Saver Plus

(mail order)



Average difference $593.08 749%

Source: Medicare Drug Plan Finder,

How much are you over-paying for your prescription drugs? The only way to find out is to do a drug plan comparison based on all the drugs you take. This is the time of year you can make changes during the Medicare Open Enrollment period, which runs through the month of November and ends December 7th. Give the Medicare Drug Plan Finder a try. You can get free one-on-one counseling by contacting your local Area on Aging, State Health Insurance Program (SHIP) or senior centers and ask for help comparing Medicare drug plans.