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Paying Less for Prescriptions with Generics and Prescription Assistance Programs

As the economy gets tighter, one thing that suffers is people’s health. Some are losing their insurance entirely and others simply can’t avoid copays. I read a sad story on CNN last week about a woman who stopped taking all her meds and died of a stroke. The doctor said that he wished she had talked to him, because her blood thinners only had a $5/month copay.

One thing I recently did–not because of the recession, but because it was practical–was get one of my prescriptions changed to generic. In this case, there was no need to be on the brand. I was annoyed that the prescribing doctor didn’t respect my request for a generic even though she acknowledged they would work fine too. She told me to follow up with her if the copay was too high. I didn’t have any generic suggestions on me, so I let it go and planned to come back.

For various reasons, I followed up with someone else who offered me a list of generic options. We ended up finding the one that was best for me and it cost–$5/month.

So if you’re having trouble affording your meds, one of the first suggestions I have is to talk to your doctor about generic options. Consider doing some minor research beforehand and bringing a list. Your doctor should be able to tell you which of those generic options will work and which (if any) aren’t right for your case.

But if you don’t have a generic alternative, you still may not have to pay as much. For the first half-year of our marriage, or so, Micah and I didn’t have health insurance at all. So we signed up for a discount prescription program which saved us a bit on prescription medication. If you have prescriptions you’re having trouble affording or lost your health insurance, consider looking into a discount drug program (for these, pick a free option as they’re available) or a prescription assistance program.

Consumer Reports has published a PDF guide to prescription assistance programs. The guide talks a bit about what they are and how to find one. Sites it recommends visiting include and

If you can’t afford your prescriptions, look into these options before you stop taking them.

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Dawn March 26, 2009 at 9:14 am

Generics are definitely the way to go. I’ve made a habit of always inquiring about a generic when the doctor prescribes anything for me.

Absent that, those with chronic conditions that require ongoing care or medication, or those who have a major procedure or surgery coming up should not be shy about negotiating bills with physicians, labs and hospitals.

Healthcare providers are certainly used to negotiating bills as they do so with insurers all the time.

Check out my blog on how to negotiate medical bills, with great tips from the original New York Times story:

L March 26, 2009 at 9:11 pm

Just wanted to say I appreciated this post, and the above comment. I am having a minor surgical procedure. I informed the doctor of my extremely high copays(60 for office visits, $3000 personal and $9000 family deductibles – and the plan covers very little…) he was able to arrange it so that it will cost me several hundred to a thousand less. Most good doctors will help you out when they can:)

Dawn March 27, 2009 at 4:43 pm

way to go, L!

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