How to afford your medication and support your health

The cost of prescription drugs in the US can be enough to make you sick.

What you pay will vary greatly depending on the drug, the pharmacy, your insurance plan, and your deductible, among other things. A drug that was cheap or at least affordable the last time it was filled may be much more expensive next time or not covered at all.

People often have no idea what a prescription will cost until they get to the pharmacy counter, says Leigh Purvis, director of health care costs and access to AARP’s Public Policy Institute.

Still, finding a way to afford your medication is important. People who don’t take medicines as prescribed because of the cost could get sicker — or die.

“What’s a potentially relatively small problem today, like high cholesterol, could grow into a much bigger problem like a heart attack down the road if you don’t treat it,” says Purvis.


Your doctors may not know what your medications are costing you because they’re dealing with dozens of insurance plans with different formulations or drug lists and how they’re covered, Purvis explains. In addition, insurers can do business with certain pharmacies, so a drug that costs $60 at one may cost $160 at another.

If a drug is difficult to afford, your doctor may be able to suggest alternatives, such as B. a generic or another type of drug. Two other questions to ask: Is a medication you’ve been taking for some time still necessary, and what lifestyle changes might reduce or eliminate the need for a prescription?

If you have insurance, carefully review your drug coverage options each year at open enrollment—the annual fall period where you choose your health plan for the following year. Make a list of all your medications with their dosages and check how each plan covers them. Insurers change their forms regularly, so you may need to switch plans to get the best coverage. And even if your medication is covered, you usually have to pay for prescriptions out of pocket until you reach your deductible.

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