Staying healthy is a priority for most people these days. Sometimes that may mean taking prescription medications that your doctor recommends. Picking up your prescriptions directly from a pharmacy can be challenging with social distancing requirements, illness, or other factors. Mail order pharmacies work through health insurance providers to deliver medications straight to your home. If your insurance provider offers mail order prescriptions, this might be a convenient option for you.
What is a mail order pharmacy? How does it work?
A mail order pharmacy works directly with insurance providers to send insured people their medications in the mail. These are alternatives to local pharmacies that make it much easier for people who can’t or don’t want to stop at their local drugstore to get the medications they need. Patients can have their doctor send their prescription directly to the mail order pharmacy, or they can fill out an order form online and attach their prescription.
- Convenience: The convenience of mail order pharmacies is what draws most people to them. It’s easy to order eligible prescriptions and prescription refills online, over the phone, or with a smart phone via a mobile app—and it’s even possible to set up continuous refills for multiple medications.
- Cost: Ordering prescriptions through a mail order pharmacy may also be cheaper than ordering them from a local pharmacy. You can sometimes get a 90-day supply of mail order prescriptions, which is often cheaper in the long run.
Mail order pharmacies may be the most convenient option that will save you money and trips to the pharmacist, but they do have some downsides.
- Delivery delays: Receiving medications in the mail can take longer than picking them up from a local retail pharmacy. It might take anywhere from three to 14 business days to receive your mail order drugs, and mail delivery systems can be unpredictable.
- Damaged packages: It’s possible for packages that hold special medications like insulin, to break or for medications that need to be refrigerated to not stay cold enough.
People who need their prescriptions right away or those with specialty medications should carefully weigh the pros and cons of mail order service.
Mail order pharmacies vs. online pharmacies
Getting your prescription from a mail order pharmacy is not the same thing as buying your medication online. Mail order pharmacies and online pharmacies both mail prescriptions, but they don’t work in the same way. Mail order pharmacies work directly with your insurance, whereas online pharmacies may or may not take insurance.
Not all online pharmacies are legitimate either. Some websites will offer people big discounts but send them counterfeit medications. Online pharmacies can operate from anywhere and may not be subject to U.S. laws and regulations. Mail order pharmacies operate under strict laws and regulations to ensure the safety and efficacy of their medications.
If you don’t have health insurance, you can still get the prescriptions you need through an online pharmacy. Be sure to look for valid online pharmacies that are accredited under the VIPPS program. The VIPPS program (Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites) accredits pharmacies that sell and dispense medications online.
“When a pharmacy obtains the VIPPS seal, it allows the consumer to rest assured that the pharmacy is legitimate,” says Jason Reed, Pharm.D., a pharmacist at Atrium Medical Center in Ohio. “Many scam internet pharmacies were deceiving people in the late 1990s, which led to the need for VIPPS. People didn’t know who they could trust and, in some cases, were receiving counterfeit medications.”
You can check to see whether an online pharmacy is VIPPS-accredited in the United States by visiting the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy’s website.
Which prescriptions can’t be mailed?
Mail order pharmacies can mail prescription and non-prescription drugs, but there may be special requirements for mailing certain types of medications.
Controlled substances, for example, have special mailing requirements because of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), which regulates the manufacturing, importation, and distribution of Schedule I, II, III, IV, and V drugs. Mail order pharmacies can mail controlled substances as long as they’re labeled per federal and state regulations. “These controlled substance scripts will have additional tracking and signature requirements upon delivery,” Dr. Reed says.
“Additionally, specialty medications can also be mailed,” he explains. “All of the largest specialty pharmacies in the U.S. today mail scripts to their patients. These medications may have temperature-sensitive or other shipping constraints that also make it a requirement that someone is at home when the delivery occurs. They are normally very expensive so the delivery is often planned out with the patient ahead of the specialty pharmacy shipping the medication.”
Does insurance cover mail order prescriptions?
Mail order pharmacies work with each health insurance company’s pharmacy benefit manager (PBM) to cover mail order prescriptions. A healthcare professional will send their patient’s prescription to a mail order pharmacy, which then runs the prescription through insurance and then mails out the right medication.
Find information on which mail order pharmacies you can use with your health insurance plan by calling the member services number of your insurance provider. You can also check the websites of insurance providers that offer mail order prescriptions for more information.
If you’re uninsured, you won’t be able to use mail order pharmacies. You can use a VIPPS certified online pharmacy, retail pharmacy delivery services, or SingleCare’s new free home delivery to mail your prescriptions.
Can I use SingleCare for mail order prescriptions?
SingleCare offers prescription savings through a number of mail order companies. Contact your mail order pharmacy and present them with the information on your SingleCare coupon card to find out if they offer a discount on your prescriptions.
SingleCare has also partnered with GeniusRx to provide free home delivery services. This expansion of services is meant to give you easier access to prescriptions amid social distancing and UPSP delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
How do I mail my prescriptions?
Here’s how to sign up for a mail order pharmacy program:
Through your insurance:
- Contact your health insurance provider to see what mail order pharmacy they partner with. Your insurer’s phone number is on the back of your member ID card.
- Ask your doctor to send your prescription directly to the mail order pharmacy. Or fill out an order form on the pharmacy’s website and attach your prescription.
- Get your prescriptions delivered safely and conveniently to your doorstep. They’ll usually come as a 90-day supply.
- Search for your medication on singlecare.com/prescription-delivery to see if it’s eligible for home delivery.
- If your medication is eligible, you’ll need to provide some basic information to your trusted delivery partner GeniusRx.
- Pay for your prescription with your Visa or Mastercard.
- Get free shipping on your prescription delivery—available to all 50 states.
If you have any questions about pharmacy delivery, we’re here to help. Feel free to call us our pharmacy delivery hotline at 800-222-2818 or find us on Facebook.