Cut Costly Prescription Prices

by Shaunna Privratsky

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We never used to have to worry about high prescription costs until we were older, but with the soaring costs of all types of medicine, drug companies are taking a huge bite out of our wallets.

Doctors are encouraged to prescribe more costly drugs. If you don't speak up, you could leave your $100-$300 doctor's visit with a prescription that costs just as much. Here are some ways to get relief from the high cost of prescription drugs.

The first step is to speak up. Tell the receptionist if you do not have medical insurance, in which case it is billed under "Patient Responsibility." A quick call to the billing office will usually net at least a 10% discount, and you can also set up monthly payments that you can afford.

Tell the doctor you have a limited budget. He or she will work with you to prescribe generic or cheaper versions of the medicine you need. Also, with your doctor in your corner, they can utilize cheaper alternatives for tests and other diagnostic tools. My husband needed a $1,000 CAT scan after his brain injury, but the doctor ordered a cheaper and less invasive test for less than $400.

If anyone in your family has a medical condition, or is on prescription medication for an extended amount of time, you can and should seek help. Call your local Social Services agency, and they can send you an application for the Prescription Assistance Program in your area.

This agency helps you fill out the lengthy forms and mails them to the appropriate drug companies. If your income falls below the state poverty levels, you can get your drugs free or at highly reduced rates. An approximate level is under $20,000 annually for a couple, more if you have children or other circumstances that affect your ability to pay.

The individual drug companies also have patient assistance programs set up for financially disadvantaged customers. You can contact them directly by finding the company's name on your prescription bottle or contacting your pharmacy. The number may be on it, or you can call directory assistance.

If you go this route, the company will send you an application. You will be required to verify your annual income, usually by providing a copy of your current tax report. Rx Outreach is another program set up to help pay for prescription drugs. If you don't have a local chapter, call the Social Services agency and ask for the national number.

When my husband suffered severe, permanent brain damage as a result of a botched surgery, he was prescribed seven different, highly expensive drugs. Even with Medicaid, the government program to help low-income people, we were paying up to $400 a month for drugs. This went on until someone at the Social Services office mentioned that we were probably eligible for prescription assistance.

We applied and were approved for free and reduced costs of the drugs. Our monthly prescription costs went down to about $30, a savings of $4,440 a year. One call was all it took to get the application process rolling.

Even if you don't qualify for the low-income bracket, you can save. When choosing a drug plan under Medicare, look closely at the deductible and the percentage you will be expected to pay. You could save thousands by choosing a lower percentage rate! In North Dakota, there are 37 drug plans. Over half of them have a 10% or less percentage bracket.

Go online to or call 1-800-633-4227 for a free copy of the 2007 Medicare & You booklet. The operators can also assist you in making the correct choices for your health and your pocketbook.

We all have the right to live a healthy life, and if medications are necessary for the quality of our lives, we should be able to get them without going into debt. Make the call today to cut costly prescription prices.

Take the Next Step:

  • First and foremost, speak up! Let your doctor know if you have a limited budget and/or no prescription medication insurance. He or she will work with you to prescribe generic or cheaper versions of the medicines you need.
  • Stop struggling to get ahead financially. Subscribe to our free weekly Surviving Tough Times newsletter aimed at helping you 'live better...for less'. Each issue features great ways to help you stretch your dollars and make the most of your resources. Subscribers get a copy of Are You Heading for Debt Trouble? A Simple Checklist And What You Can Do About It for FREE!

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