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10 Tips: Save money on drugs with this prescription

Unexpected medical costs can wreck the budgets of even the most frugal retirees, and prescription drugs can play a big role in contributing to the damage.

By Laura T. Coffey, Times Correspondent
Published December 23, 2007


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Unexpected medical costs can wreck the budgets of even the most frugal retirees, and prescription drugs can play a big role in contributing to the damage. If drug costs have been eating a hole out of your budget, these tips can help:

1 Ask your doctor for help. Your doctor may have plenty of ideas, and she may have free samples from pharmaceutical companies.

2 Investigate helpful programs. To determine your eligibility for reduced-cost or cost-free drug programs, visit the Web site of Partnership for Prescription Assistance (www.pparx.org or www.needymeds.com or the brand-new Florida Discount Drug Card (www.floridadiscountdrugcard.com).

3 Optimize your doses. Ask your doctor whether you can take a higher dose of your medication once a day rather than a lower dose more than once daily. Your doctor can tell you whether it's appropriate to buy higher-dose pills and split them yourself. You can buy a device to do that or ask your pharmacy to do it for you.

4 Consider generics. Generic drugs can cost 25 to 80 percent less than their brand-name counterparts, and they must pass the same Food and Drug Administration tests. Also, ask your doctor about substitutes.

5 Learn about your options. Consumer Reports has launched a free Web site called "Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs" at www.consumerreports.org/health/bestbuy-drugs.htm to help you identify the least-expensive medicines for certain conditions.

6 Choose your Medicare Part D plan with care. Rather than focusing only on the premium price, consider all out-of-pocket costs that may eventually bite you in the wallet. Will the plan provide any help after you and the government have spent a little more than $2,000 on drug costs? (That's when the dreaded coverage gap, or "doughnut hole," can kick in; after that time, many plan participants must pay for 100 percent of their drug costs for a period.) To consider plan options and determine your eligibility for elimination of the doughnut hole, visit www.medicare.gov, www.benefitscheckup.org and www.medicaredadvisor.com.

7 Skip those trips to your local pharmacy. Save money and time by using a mail-order pharmacy. Some health plans will let you order a three-month supply at one time for nearly 30 percent less than it costs to buy three one-month supplies at a retail pharmacy.

8 Shop around online. To compare drug costs and arrange to have medicines sent to your home, visit Web sites such as www.drugstore.com, www.walgreens.com and www.medco.com. Also ask your health plan about mail-order and online pharmacy options, particularly ones that will save you money.

9 Tell your doctors about your medications. Doing so could reveal duplication, overmedication and unnecessary expenses for medicines that may not be working the way they should.

10 Get a Florida Rx Card. You can print these cards out by visiting www.floridarxcard.com or have one sent to you by calling toll-free 1-866-298-0857. Designed mainly for uninsured and underinsured Florida residents, these cards may help if you have prescription coverage.

Laura T. Coffey (laura@tentips.org)

Sources: "Prescription for a Healthy Nest Egg," a free guide by Medco Health Solutions (www.medicaredadvisor.com); Consumer Reports (www.consumerreports.org); AARP (www.aarp.org)

[Last modified December 21, 2007, 20:36:21]


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