Keep those prescription costs down

Keep those prescription costs down

By Russ and Tiña De Maris

Spend any amount of time on the road with your RV, you quickly learn the ropes of how to keep up with the mundane: Getting your mail when away from “home” and paying the bills. Add, getting those prescription drugs. That can be a bit dicey, particularly if you don’t have drug coverage in your health plan.

Perhaps availability is the biggest issue. If you’re moving around a lot, there’s no way you’re going to have the regular corner pharmacy. While the mom-and-pop pharmacy may no longer work for you, that doesn’t mean getting your prescriptions refilled will become a huge issue. Happily, with the advent of networked computer systems, there are plenty of pharmacy chains that, once your prescription is “in the system,” will follow you wherever you go.

Big chains? Think Walmart, Walgreens, Sam’s Club, Costco, and the like. But not all chain pharmacies are created equal. If you have a prescription drug plan, price isn’t likely to be a problem. You buy it at one store, the price will likely be the same at the other chain. Here’s where convenience will factor in. Costco is not as widespread as Sam’s Club, nor certainly as Walgreens. And Walgreens will probably have much more convenient hours, typically being open seven days a week.

Without insurance, money will be a much bigger factor. A recent report from a consumer group showed that prices varied widely among all kinds of pharmacies. On the average, though, Costco pharmacy seemed to be king of the price leaders. How come? Because Costco is looking to draw folks into the store with lowball prescription prices, and while you’re waiting for your scrip to be filled, you’ll go spend a couple hundred bucks elsewhere in the warehouse. Not so Walgreens – they make most of their money at the RX counter.

Don’t have a Walmart or Sam’s Club membership? No worries! Federal law requires that if a pharmacy offers prescription drugs to Medicare clients, they cannot enforce a “members only rule.” So when you get to the warehouse store “gatekeeper” looking to see your membership ID, just tell them you’re there to go to the pharmacy.

Depending on your prescription, Walmart’s “$4.00 special” may be just the ticket. The company offers hundreds of generic prescription drugs for just $4.00 for a month’s supply, and $10.00 for a three-month fill. You’ll find a link on the Walmart website that will give you a complete list of those drugs. You’ll also find many other pharmacies will give a discount for a three-month supply compared to the once-a-month refill.

It also goes without saying that generic drugs are less expensive than the brand-name version. Ask your pharmacist about it. And while you’re asking, if quoted a price for your prescription, inquire if that quote is the lowest price available. Sometimes a pharmacy will quote a price and, if asked, will somehow manage to come up with a lower price. Go figure. 

Here’s a caveat for those with prescription drug care insurance coverage: An RVer we know was paying some pretty high copay amounts. He complained to his doctor, who recommended he “shop around” pharmacies, offering to pay cash money for prescriptions. In some cases he was able to buy prescriptions for cash for less than he would have paid for a copay.

Money still an issue? If your travels take you close to the borders of the country, consider a trip across the line to Canada or Mexico. We’re familiar with frequent trips to Mexico, and despite the doomsayers, the pharmaceuticals sold “south of the border” we’ve found to be safe and effective, and generally tons less expensive than their counterparts sold in the U.S.

##RVT813

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11 thoughts on “Keep those prescription costs down

  1. PennyPA

    I buy my meds from ADC, a company located in India. I can get a year’s supply of my particular meds for what a 3-month co-pay would cost here in the U.S. and they’re made by the same companies who make them for distribution in the states

  2. christine

    please- can you shed a light on narcotics? chronic pain slows me down, but if i can get my rx filled state to state ill be ok.
    what does one do when the paper prescriptions run out? can i use an urgent care center for a 30 day supply?

    1. RV Staff

      Christine, we can’t answer your questions specifically, especially since narcotics/controlled substance prescriptions are becoming more highly regulated all the time. Here are a couple of examples of the current restrictions:

      “Question: Can controlled substance prescriptions be refilled?
      “Answer: Prescriptions for schedule II controlled substances cannot be refilled. A new prescription must be issued. Prescriptions for schedules III and IV controlled substances may be refilled up to five times in six months. Prescriptions for schedule V controlled substances may be refilled as authorized by the practitioner.”

      “Narcotics and Anti-anxiety medication require close monitoring and consultation with patients who use them, and so they are not typically prescribed by urgent care doctors. Again, speak with your regular doctor or a psychiatrist about long-term care.”

      We suggest you check with your physician and/or insurance company for more information. Good luck. —Diane at RVtravel.com

      1. Joan Latsch

        http://www.blinkhealth.com. Free to join, no membership fee and discounts on prescriptions. Check it out.

  3. Traveling Man

    Here are 3 “other” alternatives for saving money:

    Prescriptions:

    http://www.BlinkHealth.com
    http://www.GoodRx.com

    Both can save you a lot of money with CASH. And you don’t have to worry about where you are when its time to refill. Use a multitude of locations. Just plug in your current prescription and see what you can save. Forget insurance!

    The other is MDSave.com

    With MD Save, if you know what surgery or doctor visit procedure you need, CASH is king! All services are included instead of paying each one separate. We saved $1600 on an $1800 MRI.

    And finally, don’t hesitate to explore ACA options with http://www.KFF.com.

    This website can show you create ways of managing the ACA Act. Planning is everything. We have our insurance down to $59 a month. It takes create thinking…

  4. TechiePhil

    For those that may be going on a Medicare Part D suplement plan, we discovered that we could save a lot of money on our premiums by changing drugs. The insurance formulary (list of covered meds) has tiers that reflect drug costs. We found that a couple of our prescriptions that we had taken for years were in a high tier, meaning a high premium. We consulted with our doc, who said there were other lower-tier drugs that should work (e.g, for cholesterol , hypertension and PPI meds). Turns out our lower priced drugs work better than the higher priced ones. All were already generics. By using lower tier prescriptions, our drug premiums went from $3,000 to $300 per year. Lesson for us– ask the doc with formulary list in hand.

    1. RV Staff

      Valuable information, Phil. Thank you very much! 😀 —Diane at RVtravel.com

  5. George B

    And don’t count on your prescription being good in another country. I know in the U.S. the pharmacy will not accept a Rx written by a Canadian doctor. I don’t know if that holds true in the reverse or if “once you’re in the system” with a big chain, can you get the Rx filled in another country. Best to check that out before going.

    1. Jim

      I’ve used a mail order Canadian pharmacy twice now. They accepted my RX from my U.S. doctor.

  6. Suka's Mom

    Check out GoodRx dot com. It provides price comparisons of specific medications in a given ZIP code. It’s free and has worked well for us. Sometimes the price differences are astonishing.

  7. Ralph Burns

    Very good article, much better than last one I read about prescriptions while traveling.

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