By Mary Johnson, Editor
One out of four Medicare beneficiaries have discovered the value of using GoodRx coupons as a backup to Medicare drug coverage, according to a surprise finding in TSCL’s 2023 Senior Survey, and so have I. This story is not a paid advertisement. TSCL does not accept funding from pharmaceutical companies, pharmacies, or GoodRx. However, we do spread the word on ways older consumers save on prescription drug costs.
I recently tried GoodRx when my doctor prescribed the brand drug ADVAIR. My Medicare drug plan quoted $475 for a 90-day supply. On the other hand, GoodRx offered a discount coupon for as low as $63 per month, or $189 for a 90-day supply of the generic — (fluticasone propionate and salmeterol inhalation powder) — a savings of $286! The generic wasn’t even covered by my drug plan. Instead, I tried GoodRx and asked my doctor to phone in the prescription to the lowest-costing retail pharmacy (a local Kroger).
The savings turned out to be as advertised, and that was especially helpful when I learned that I did not tolerate either the brand name sample or the generic version of ADVAIR. GoodRx helped me try a new medication for a few weeks without the risk of spending hundreds of dollars on a drug that did not work for me.
In January, I refilled a standard prescription for an albuterol inhaler. My drug plan co-pay was estimated to cost $34.42 each. GoodRx offered coupons for about $22 each. I opted to use GoodRx instead of my drug plan and thus avoided using any of my drug plan’s coverage. When you use GoodRx instead of your drug plan, the prescription cost is straight out of pocket. Nothing is counted toward your drug plan deductible (as much as $505 in 2023) or towards the out-of-pocket required to reach the catastrophic threshold when Medicare steps in and pays most of the cost.
Here’s how to use GoodRx:
- Visit the website https://www.goodrx.com where you will be prompted to enter a medication. GoodRx compares drug prices by pharmacies in your area to find the current price and discount. (Compare that cost to your current expected co-pay under your drug plan. If a better deal, go to next step.)
- Get free coupons. You can get coupons to print and take with you or on your smartphone.
- Ask your doctor to phone in the prescription to the pharmacy you choose or ask for a copy of the prescription to take with you.
- Check the cost before filling and enjoy your savings.
It’s almost impossible to compare prescription drug prices the way we can compare the price of over-the-counter medications (such as Mucinex). With the potential for significant savings through GoodRx, I’ve started to include searches of GoodRx coupon prices when comparing drug plans and drug costs with friends and neighbors on the Medicare.gov “Drug Plan Finder.”
I help friends and family with this price comparison task during the Medicare Open Enrollment Period in the fall. Even with Medicare’s “Drug Plan Finder,” the best we can do is to get an estimate of drug costs. The actual cost can change the following year, and the drug plans may drop coverage altogether. The more prescriptions you take, the harder it is to find a single plan that covers all the drugs with a reasonably low price on all drugs.
Thus, GoodRx provides a valuable backup to existing Part D coverage. That doesn’t mean you can drop your Medicare drug plan coverage. To avoid permanent penalties of 12% per year, you will need to stay enrolled, but you might be able to opt for less pricey plans with the strategic use of a GoodRx card as a backup.
TSCL’s surveys have found that as many as 25% of older adults don’t fill prescriptions due to cost. Used correctly as a backup to Medicare drug plans, I think GoodRx coupons and cards can help older adults find potentially significant savings. These discounts may also help seniors who find their drug plan deductible, which can be as high as $505 this year, a barrier to filling their prescriptions. Hopefully, by lowering the cost of prescription drugs, more of you will be able to pick up your prescriptions this year and enjoy better health.
Note: TSCL does not recommend going without prescription drug coverage! Doing so could lead to permanent premium penalties should you want to enroll in the future. GoodRX and other drug discounts cards should only be used as a back - up tool to lower costs and enhance access to affordable medications.