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HSA Best Practices: How to Save on Prescription Drugs

Consumers who use high deductible health plans (HDHPs) and Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) to help manage their healthcare costs are conscious of rising drug prices, which are increasing at their highest rate since 2003.  Because HSA-qualified HDHPs don’t allow set copay amounts for prescriptions, HSA consumers take the full burden of these rising costs.

The Express Scripts Drug Trend Report of 2015  shows that prescription prices have nearly doubled over the last five years.  This issue has been in the news lately, with presidential candidates from both major parties offering solutions such as allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices, capping how much patients have to pay out of pocket for drugs, or opening the way for Americans to purchase drugs from other countries such as Canada.  Whatever future policies may do to try to address this issue, Americans need to be wise when it comes to their spending on drugs.

NBS data show that participants in NBS plans use their NBS debit card at pharmacies more than anywhere else.  There are almost twice as many transactions at pharmacies than at doctor’s offices and 5 times as many as at dentists and orthodontists.  Consumers rely on their HSAs or FSAs to purchase their prescriptions, but there other ways that they can save on prescription expenses. Here are three of the easiest.

Choose Generics

The Express Scripts report shows that the gap between brand-name drug prices and their generic equivalents is growing, so there are increasing cost savings to be had by choosing generics over brand-name drugs.  Contrary to the cost of brand-name drugs, the cost of generics is actually decreasing overall.  The U.S. Food and Drug Administration only approves generic drugs that have the same quality, strength, purity and stability as brand-name drugs.  So, when your doctor prescribes a drug, make sure to ask if there is any benefit to taking the brand-name over a generic.  Odds are there is no benefit and the cost savings can be substantial.

Shop Around

Prices also vary greatly between pharmacies due to pharmacy overhead costs, profit margins or relationships with drug manufacturers.  Simply choosing where you shop can have a big impact on stretching your dollars to pay for prescriptions.

Drug discount and comparison tools like LowestMed  offer a level of transparency into drug prices that hasn’t existed before.  Since 2012, LowestMed has helped consumers through their mobile app and website to save over $19 million on their drugs.  LowestMed has found that sometimes they are even able to find lower prices than what you might be receiving through your health insurance plan’s copays, so even consumers who don’t have HDHPs can look for great savings by using these tools.  Gone are the days when a consumer should just trust their insurance company to always get them the best price.

Consider Advocacy Programs for Brand and Specialty Drugs

If you require high cost brand or specialty drugs for conditions like diabetes, MS, cancer, asthma, etc. programs like LowestMed’s Rx Advocacy program can help you greatly reduce your costs. Personal advocates work in behalf of patients with manufactures and other organizations to get brand name drugs donated to consumers for as long as the drug is needed. Advocacy programs require some medical and financial data to be submitted and enrollment in the program costs the member $50 per month. This program saves many patients hundreds and even thousands of dollars each month. The LowestMed Rx Advocacy program is available to consumers with or without insurance.