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How to save on Walgreens prescriptions

Just a few years ago, pharmacy savings programs could be found all over the place. Most of the major pharmacies offered some version of a discount program for generic drugs. Then, the price of generic medications began to rise, and one drugstore chain after another abandoned their prescription discount programs altogether.

Walgreens, however, still offers its Prescription Savings Club, which has always been one of the most extensive prescription discount programs in the industry. For a small membership fee, uninsured and underinsured patients have access to special discounts on over 8,000 medications—some for as little as a few dollars a month.

What is the Walgreens Prescription Savings Club?

The Walgreens Prescription Savings Club provides out-of-pocket discounts on most generic drugs, some brand-name drugs, prescription diabetic supplies, immunizations, and even clinic services. Club members pay a yearly fee and automatically get discounts on eligible prescriptions and services.

The Prescription Savings Club is a membership program that requires registration and a yearly fee. Membership renewal is not automatic though. Customers can sign up and renew their membership in a store or online.

Is the prescription club a good deal? For some customers, the yearly fee is barely noticeable when compared to the possible savings. For others, the savings may not be worth the cost and trouble. It depends on the situation, the drugs prescribed, and the kind of coverage a customer would get with their insurance plan. Because these discounts only apply to the retail price of a medication (without using health insurance), the customer should compare their copay with insurance to the Walgreens discount to find the best deal. Customers with good health insurance might want to stick with their insurance, particularly for higher-priced medicines.

Prescription drug savings programs are especially helpful for uninsured patients having difficulty managing high drug prices and those with a high deductible health plan. These customers will earn back their membership fee and probably a whole lot more by using the card just a few times at Walgreens.

How much is the Walgreens prescription plan?

The Walgreens Prescription Savings Club annual membership fee is $20 for individuals and $35 for families. The family membership covers spouses, all dependents younger than 23 years old, and pets. (The program provides discounts on pet medications that have generic human equivalents, such as amoxicillin or Prozac.)

There are no hidden costs, additional fees, add-ons, or upgrades. The price you pay is the price you pay.

However, because a Walgreens Prescription Savings Club membership comes with a savings guarantee, members are guaranteed they will save at least the cost of their membership. If not, Walgreens will pay the difference. If you factor in the savings guarantee, the true cost of the Walgreens prescription plan is $0 if you purchase your prescription drugs from a Walgreens pharmacy.

Someone might reasonably ask why Walgreens might charge for membership if they guarantee the savings and offer a partial refund. Why not offer membership for free? The answer is simple. Paying a fee for the card motivates people to purchase their prescription drugs at Walgreens or Duane Reade (owned by Walgreens).

That’s not a bad thing. For cash-paying or underinsured customers, the Prescription Savings Club puts Walgreens generic prices almost on a par with the lowest-cost pharmacies. There are many good reasons for loyal customers to prefer Walgreens—service, security, familiarity, or a trusting relationship with a particular Walgreens pharmacist. The discount program allows those patients to pay prices that are closer to the lowest cash prices on the market and stay with their preferred pharmacy.

Are there any restrictions?

Not everyone can join the program. Some states do not offer the Walgreens Prescription Savings Club, and they make a distinction between prescription discount plans and prescription insurance. Although prescription savings programs look a bit like insurance, they are not insurance.

This distinction between insurance and discount programs is crucial for understanding why the program is not available to everyone everywhere.

For instance, the Prescription Drug Savings Club is not available in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Mississippi, and Washington state. Lawmakers in those states either don’t consider discount cards to be “creditable coverage” in the same way as insurance, or they think of these discount programs as “kickbacks” to the customer.

For the same reason, drug discount coupons and programs cannot be used when purchasing prescription drugs with Medicare, Medicaid, or any other government-provided health insurance or healthcare. Therefore, Walgreens will not permit beneficiaries of government-funded prescription drug insurance to enroll in their Prescription Savings Club.

In sum, only a few restrictions apply to membership:

  • Patients on Medicare, Medicaid, or any other federal or state government-funded health plan are not eligible to join the program.
  • The card cannot be used at Walgreens pharmacies located in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Mississippi, and Washington state.
  • American Samoa, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands (territories of the United States) do not have Walgreens stores.
  • Finally, the card cannot be used with insurance to reduce the copay cost of the prescription.

What does the Walgreens Prescription Savings Club include?

The Walgreens Prescription Savings Club offers fixed prices on the lowest-cost generic medications, divided into three price/discount tiers:

  • Tier 1 drugs cost $5 for a 30-day supply and $10 for a 90-day supply. Examples of tier 1 drugs are metformin and penicillin.
  • Tier 2 drugs cost $10 for a 30-day supply and $20 for a 90-day supply. Simvastatin and albuterol are examples of tier 2 drugs.
  • Tier 3 drugs cost $15 for a 30-day supply and $30 for a 90-day supply. Examples of tier 3 drugs include acyclovir and ketoprofen.

Discounts will also be applied to select brand-name drugs. However, if there is a generic equivalent available, it will be substituted for the brand-name version, even if it’s on the discounted drug list. In those cases, the Prescription Savings Club will not cover the brand product.

Other benefits of the discount program include:

The bonus program rewards customers for purchasing Walgreens brand products by adding 10% of the value of that purchase as a bonus credit to the card. Customers can use the credit to buy other select items in the store, excluding dairy, alcohol, tobacco, gift cards, stamps, and a few other items.

Other ways to save on Walgreens prescriptions

Customers who don’t qualify for the Prescription Savings Club have other options to save on their prescription drug purchases at Walgreens:

1. Consider Medicaid

Lower-income patients can turn to Medicaid programs for prescription drug coverage. Medicaid beneficiaries get generic drugs at little to no cost. Medicaid eligibility is income-based. You can find out if you qualify for coverage here.

2. Apply for patient assistance

Brand-name prescription drug manufacturers and nonprofit organizations offer patient assistance to help people who are unable to pay for their medications. If a customer qualifies for one of these programs, they may be able to get brand-name medications at no cost.

3. Fill a 90-day supply

Like other home goods and essentials, the buy-in-bulk philosophy remains true for prescriptions, too. A higher upfront cost for a larger prescription fill can save you money in the long run.

4. Use a SingleCare savings card

SingleCare and Walgreens partner together directly to provide lower prescription prices for their customers. SingleCare’s free drug coupons can reduce the cost of many drugs by as much as 80% at Walgreens and other pharmacies.