Q: My drug plan is offering a new mail order system. I normally fill my prescriptions at the pharmacy. Does this really save any money? What would I do if I need a prescription quickly?
A: Many seniors can save substantially on drug costs by using mail order, and it’s worth looking into. Be sure to use your drug plan’s “preferred provider” mail order service. If you go outside of your drug plan’s mail order network, your plan may not cover your drugs.
Call your plan’s mail-order service and compare the prescription costs, including any shipping. Often you can get a three-month supply of your prescription by mail for less money than you would pay for a one-or two-month supply purchased at a standard retail pharmacy, and pay nothing for shipping. But using mail order requires advance planning on your part because you need to allow up to two weeks for delivery.
Home delivery is best suited for “maintenance” drugs, the type you take every day over the long term. You will still need to continue to use your drug plan’s “preferred” retail pharmacies if you need a short-term or one-time prescription like an antibiotic.
Your drug plan will provide you with forms and a package of information about how your mail order program works. You will need to ask your doctor for a 90-day prescription. Since it can take up to two weeks for delivery, make sure you either have a 30-day supply of your prescription on hand when you place your first order, or ask your doctor for a temporary 30-day prescription in addition to the 90-day, so that you can fill it at your retail pharmacy if you need to start the medication right away.
Your mail order pharmacy may require that your doctor fax the prescription and you will also mail in the original as well as other required forms, your check, or credit or debit card information. Be sure to find out when medications requiring refrigeration are shipped so you can be expecting them. In general, you can order refills after 60 days or so.
Mail order can also help you save if your drug plan is increasing co-pays or drug costs, dropping coverage or making similar changes for 2012. Orders placed by December 31, 2011 will be filled by your 2011 drug plan mail order pharmacy, and covered at the costs when you place your order your prescription in December.