Starting a new medication can sometimes take you by surprise when drug plans don't cover the drug or charge higher co-pays than you can afford. If you're having trouble covering the cost of your medicine, here are some things to try:
- Take a complete list of all your prescriptions, vitamins, and supplements with you on your next visit to the doctor. Note the dosage and the quantity you use monthly. Find out whether you still need to take them all, and if there's a less-expensive brand name or generic you can try before settling on new expensive brand meds.
- Look into mail-order pharmacies. When ordering by mail you can often save money because you order in quantity — a 90-day versus a 30-day supply. Many mail order pharmacies charge lower co-pays for a 90-day supply than what you pay for a 60-day. Check with your drug plan to find out if mail order is available.
- Compare your drug and health plan options during the Medicare Open Enrollment period October 15th - December 7th. Does your current drug plan cover expensive new prescriptions? If not, you need to check your other options. Chances are another plan will. Use the Drug and Health Plan Finder at www.Medicare.gov. Make sure you carefully enter every prescription drug you take in order to get a custom comparison of your best drug plan choices. Costs can vary by hundreds, even thousands, of dollars, and you may be very surprised by the savings from switching to a better plan. You can get unbiased help to compare your coverage. Call your Area Agency on Aging and ask for the help of a State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) counselor, or visit online.
- Apply for Extra Help. Extra Help is the Medicare program for low-income seniors that can help with most, or all of the cost of your drug plan premium, deductible, and co-pays. You also get valuable coverage in the Part D coverage gap. If you qualify, you would pay between $1 - $6 for each drug. Apply even if you aren't sure, because the income requirements are not as stringent as those for State Pharmacy assistance programs.
- Apply for pharmacy assistance programs from your drug manufacturer. Medicare maintains a list of pharmacy assistance programs by drug name. Click here to learn if there is a program for your drug.
- Investigate national and community charitable programs and organizations. An excellent guide to Prescription Drug Assistance Programs is available from The American Cancer Society. Even if you don't have cancer, the information is pertinent to all drug assistance programs. For more information call 1-800-ACS-2345 or download the publication.
For more tips like these to save on your Medicare costs and to maximize your Social Security benefits, sign up for The Senior Citizens League's Social Security & Medicare Advisor newsletter or call 1-800-333-8725 for more information.
Reprinted with permission from The Senior Citizens League, 1001 N. Fairfax St. #101, Alexandria, VA 22314, www.seniors.league.org, 1-800-333-8725.