One of the few things patients can do is to ask their physician if there is a cheaper version of the medication you are being prescribed. If you take a once-a-day medication, there is often cheaper twice-a-day version that is just as effective.
I try to always give my patients the option of the cheaper twice-daily version especially if the financial difference is $4 for the generic twice-daily version versus $30-50 for the name brand once-daily version.
I do not recommend buying drugs from online, Mexico or Canada. I’m sure there are some great buys but you cannot trust the quality of the medications you are getting. There are many examples of persons receiving medications that look identical to the U.S-purchased name brand medication only to suffer severe illness because the pill only contained inactive ingredients or in some cases has been substituted with other dangerous medications such as steroids.
Another step is to comparison shop for medications. Many medications are now available from non-traditional pharmacies at a cheaper cash price than what our insurance is requiring as a co-payment. Walmart, Hy-Vee, Target, Hen House Market and Costco (you don’t need a membership card to use the pharmacy) are examples of pharmacies that have cash prices that are lower than most co-payments for many of the most commonly used generic medications.
The links highlighted above will allow you to either download their medication price list or search online for your specific medication. The lists aren’t all the same so if you can’t fine one of your medications on one list, try another.
Another very effective way to reduce medication costs is to change your diet. I have found with my patients that a reduction in carbohydrates down to about 150-200 grams per day often results in significant improvement in some common ailments and patients are often able to reduce or eliminate certain medications.
Heartburn and GERD can quickly improve (say good by to the antacids), frequent urination or incontinence improves (no more bladder medicines or incontinence pads) and hip/knee/back pain can be greatly reduced (you’ll need less of those sometimes dangerous arthritis medications).
In addition, patients will high blood pressure, diabetes and elevated cholesterol or triglyceride can also end up requiring fewer medications. As a cautionary note, remember to always contact your doctor by phone at least before stopping or changing the dosage of your medications.
And finally, try to get the most out of every visit to the doctor. Write down your list of symptoms or questions before your appointment. Don’t write out multiple paragraphs of sentences but boil it down to a few simple bullet list items that you can go through and check off as you discuss them with you doctor.
Always ask what the consequences of doing nothing for your condition might be. Sometimes you’ll be surprised that the condition the doctor was going to prescribe you a medication for may simply go away on its own without the treatment, it just may take a little longer and won’t cost as much.
Also, don’t be afraid to question a doctor about the necessity of the referrals or tests that are being ordered. Many primary care physicians feel so rushed these days that they seem to think that ordering tests and consultations with specialists will produce an answer to your problem with less effort on you primary care physicians part.
Or ask if you can simple do only the tests most likely to make the diagnosis rather than the entire battery of tests that will give you the answer to every probable cause. If your doctor agrees a delay in diagnosis would not put your health at risk, why not slow the process down and only pay for the few tests necessary to provide the answer to the 1 or 2 most likely causes of your symptoms? Would you be happy if the auto mechanic replaced several different parts at once when only one part might of been necessary? Why shouldn’t we demand that of our doctors?
If your doctor is unwilling, unhappy or seems offended by spending a few more minutes talking to you to try to determine your problem, then maybe you just need to shop around until you find a doctor more capable or willing to help manage not only your health but your financial resources as well.