More than 66 percent of all adults in the United States rely on prescription drugs, which can be quite costly regardless of whether individuals have health insurance. In fact, adults in the US spend nearly $73 billion on prescription medications, accounting for 16 percent of total health costs.
To help alleviate the financial burden of prescription drugs, two types of non-insurance prescription cards are available: discount prescription cards and manufacturer copay cards. Understanding the differences between these cards and how they can potentially help consumers save money is essential.
Discount prescription cards, also known as Rx savings cards, are widely used by both insured and uninsured individuals. These cards are usually free and easily accessible. Users can download them from the internet or via mobile apps. Once obtained, users simply input the name and dosage of their prescribed drug into an Rx discount app or present a physical card at participating pharmacies. The app or card then compares prices from different pharmacies to find the least expensive option.
The savings obtained through discount prescription cards vary depending on factors such as the specific card issuer and the drug being purchased. Under the best conditions, consumers may save as much as 85 percent off the retail price, although the average savings typically range from 15 to 20 percent. Generic drugs often offer the most significant discounts as they are already priced lower than brand-name medications.
It is important to note that discount cards cannot be used in conjunction with health insurance. The two work independently, and individuals should compare the prices offered by their health insurance plan and the discount card to determine the most cost-effective option. In certain cases, when health insurance policies have a cap on prescription costs, the discount card can prove especially beneficial.
However, consumers must exercise caution when using discount Rx cards. Discount rates on specific prescriptions are subject to change, so it is essential to regularly check the app or website for updated comparisons. Furthermore, not all pharmacies may honor the discounted rate, requiring individuals to explore alternative options if the savings are significant.
While most discount cards are free, some issuers may charge an enrollment fee. It is advisable to avoid such cards. Additionally, each time a discount card is used, a small fee may be added to the final price, which can be paid by either the pharmacy or the consumer. Privacy concerns also arise with discount Rx cards, as the companies that issue these cards are not subject to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Consequently, personal information collected by these companies can be legally shared and sold to marketers, potentially resulting in targeted advertisements.
On the other hand, manufacturer copay cards offer another avenue for savings on prescription medications, particularly for expensive brand-name drugs without generic alternatives. These cards are provided by pharmaceutical manufacturers, and interested individuals can find them on the manufacturer’s website or inquire with their healthcare provider or pharmacist. To use a manufacturer copay card, individuals must have private health insurance. These cards work in conjunction with insurance, reducing the out-of-pocket expense for the user. The health insurance covers a portion of the cost, and the manufacturer pays the remaining portion, including copays or coinsurance. Manufacturer copay cards are typically offered for medications that do not have generic equivalents.
However, certain restrictions apply to the use of manufacturer copay cards. They cannot be used with Medicaid or Medicare due to anti-kickback statutes, which prohibit manufacturers from influencing purchases when the federal government would be reimbursing the purchaser. Additionally, several regions, such as California, have banned the use of manufacturer copay cards for brand-name pharmaceuticals that have generic equivalents.
In summary, both discount prescription cards and manufacturer copay cards provide options for reducing prescription drug costs. Discount cards are widely accessible and offer potential savings, particularly for generic medications. Manufacturer copay cards are beneficial for brand-name drugs without generic alternatives and are available to individuals with private health insurance. It is advised to compare and evaluate the various options to determine the most cost-effective choice for each prescription medication.