Americans spend more on prescription drugs than citizens anywhere else in the world, according to data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. It’s no surprise, then, that 83% of people in the U.S. have concerns about the impact of rising drug prices on their lives, according to a national poll by CVS Health. Many are at the point where they won’t fill a prescription because of the cost. Prescription savings cards are one way to alleviate that burden, and allow people to care for themselves and their families.
Working as a pharmacist, you see first-hand when patients are shocked by prices, or start to leave without paying for a prescription. And, you’ve probably noticed the growing use of various cards to compare prices. But, they’re still a fairly new savings tool, so you may come across customers who have never heard of prescription savings cards, or have doubts about how they work.
If someone is faced with a high copay or cash payment, you can use that opportunity to educate him or her on the options available to reduce the price—especially if it means the difference between adhering to or skipping a prescription. When a customer approaches you, try these answers to common questions.
What is a pharmacy savings card?
A pharmacy savings card is one way for you to reduce the high cost of prescription prices—with or without insurance. “Prescription medication expenses comprise approximately 17% of personal healthcare services, and U.S. per-capita drug spending exceeds all other countries. Many generic medication prices have increased by 400% from 2012 to 2015,” says Jennifer J. Kim, Pharm.D., Assistant Director of Pharmacy Education at Cone Health. Most Americans don’t realize they can—and should—shop around for the lowest prices on prescription drugs. “Prescriptions savings cards help patients obtain their medications at low-cost.”
How does a pharmacy savings card work?
Companies that offer pharmacy savings cards, like SingleCare, partner with pharmacies to negotiate lower prices for consumers. Your customers can check prices at home beforehand or ask you to run the discounts for one or more savings cards when they pick up to find the lowest price for their medication.
Despite what you may have heard, savings cards are good for your customers and for the pharmacies.
“Incentives can promote adherence by providing positive reinforcement to motivate and engage patients to continue healthy behaviors,” says Dr. Kim. “Helping patients to afford medications sends the message that we are trying to work with them toward a solution rather than telling them how they should behave.”
Where can I use it?
Prescription savings cards can only be used at pharmacies that partner with the discount program. The SingleCare card is accepted nationwide at over 35,000 participating pharmacies, including major chains like CVS, Target, Longs Drugs, Walmart, Walmart Neighborhood Market, Walgreens, Albertsons, Kroger, and Harris Teeter.
You can see if your pharmacy accepts a pharmacy savings card using the app or website.
How much does it cost to use?
SingleCare is free to join and use. You don’t have to worry about subscriptions or surprise fees. Other pharmacy savings cards offer premium programs for additional discounts, but SingleCare offers the lowest price to everyone.
What will the medication cost?
“The patient should first determine what the pharmacy cash price is before using a card,” says Ernest Boyd, R.Ph., executive director of the Ohio Pharmacists Association. “Sometimes the cash price is lower [than the insurance copay or the savings card]. They should ask the pharmacist if their medication is available as a less expensive generic.”
Many pharmacy savings cards, like SingleCare, have a pricing transparency tool that allows you to compare prices before you get to the counter. Using SingleCare’s app or website, patients can search for their prescription medication, enter relevant information about the preferred brand/generic, dosage, and quantity, and then see prices by pharmacy and location.
The customer has insurance. Can he or she still use a pharmacy savings card?
There are no exclusions to SingleCare membership. Meaning, customers can use prescription savings cards whether or not they have insurance. But, you can’t use savings cards in conjunction with insurance. Customers should compare prices for their prescriptions to find out which price is lowest: the insurance copay, the cash price, or the savings card price. Then, you run either or. It’s not uncommon for the price to be lower with a savings card than a copay with insurance, so it’s always worth checking before filling.
What other options exist beyond pharmacy savings cards?
“I typically recommend prescriptions savings cards for patients who are unable to afford medically-necessary treatments,” says Dr. Kim. If you’re struggling to pay for medication or therapies you need, they are one tool in your toolbox to pay less and feel better. Explore them—and their benefits—while you research other savings tool options based on you or your family’s situation.
“[Your options] may include copay cards for low-income patients who happen to have insurance but have high prescription copay, or other savings cards online for patients with no insurance who are prescribed high-priced medications,” Dr. Kim explains. “For uninsured patients with low or no income, they may qualify for free medications through patient assistance programs.”