Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Money Crashers: How Prescription Drug Discount Cards Can Save You Money at the Pharmacy

I just got home from a trip to the drugstore, highly annoyed because I was conned into leaving with a plastic bag that I didn't need. Usually I'm highly alert at the checkout and manage to squeeze in my "Idon'tneedabagthanks" before they get a chance to dump my purchases in one, but this time the pharmacist distracted me by asking if my card was debit or credit and carefully explaining to me how to insert it into the reader, which I know perfectly well...and when I turned my eyes to that for just one second, he took advantage of the opportunity to slip my tiny little medicine bottle, which I could easily have stuck in my purse, into a plastic bag. (Okay, he probably didn't really go out of his way to foist an unwanted plastic bag on me, but the result is the same. Would it really be so hard for cashiers to ask, "Do you want a bag?" when they ring you up?)

But I guess I really shouldn't complain too much. After all, an unnecessary plastic bag is, at most, a minor annoyance. I should count myself lucky I'm not one of the millions of Americans (about 8 percent of all American adults, according to an NCHS survey) who can't afford their medications at all.

For those folks, those little bins full of cards they display at doctors' offices, promising savings of "up to 50 percent" (or 60 percent or 70 percent or whatever) on prescriptions, must look like a blessing from heaven. But do they really live up to those promises, or is it just a scam?

Well, as it turns out, the answer is no to both. Prescription drug savings cards are legitimate programs that offer real savings—but only on some drugs, at some pharmacies. Overall, the amount you can save with them averages around 16 percent.

Still, if your health insurance won't cover a medication you need (or you don't have health insurance at all), every little bit helps. So in my latest Money Crashers article, I examine the pros and cons of these discount cards in detail. I explain how the programs are able to lower drug costs, why drugstores are willing to accept them, how much you can save with them, and how they compare to health insurance and other savings tools, such as discount generic drug plans. Finally, I offer some advice on how to go about finding the drug discount card that can offer the best savings for the specific drugs you need.

Here's the story: How Prescription Drug Discount Cards Can Save You Money at the Pharmacy

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