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.