Healthcare Educators


Are You Spending Too Much on Medicare Prescription Drugs?

by | Mar 22, 2021

Medicare could save $1.7 billion a year if beneficiaries switched from brand name to generic prescription drugs. How much could you save?

According to a study conducted by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Medicare could have saved $1.7 billion in a single year if prescribing clinicians and patients had requested generic prescriptions instead of brand name prescriptions. The patients could have saved a significant sum, as well. Medicare beneficiaries could have saved $270 million a year by switching to generic prescription drugs.

Overpaying for prescription drugs doesn’t make sense, yet this study indicates that this is exactly what many of us are doing. If you think you might be overpaying for your prescriptions, consider these cost-saving options.

1. Talk to your doctor about generic alternatives.

As the recent study proved, switching to generics could result in major savings.

When your doctor prescribes a medication, ask whether it’s a brand name. If it is, ask whether a generic alternative is possible and if it would make sense for you to use that instead. In some cases, there might not be a generic option on the market yet. In other cases, your doctor may have a reason for preferring the brand name version. However, in many cases, a generic alternative is just as effective.

2. Shop around for the best deal.

Different pharmacies might charge different amounts for the same prescription. Shop around for the best deal. In addition to local pharmacies, you might consider mail-order pharmacies. Mail-order pharmacies can be less expensive than regular pharmacies. They’ll also save you a trip to the store.

3. Make sure you’re in the right Medicare plan.

Just as prescription costs can vary from pharmacy to pharmacy, they can also vary from plan to plan. Before you enroll in a Medicare Part D or Medicare Advantage plan with prescription drug coverage, create a list of the prescription drugs you take regularly so you can see how much each plan charges. When you compare plans, focus on your total costs, including your expected copays.

4. Apply for Extra Help.

You may qualify for Medicare’s Extra Help program based on your annual income and resources. If you qualify for Extra Help, you will pay no more than $3.70 for each generic prescription and no more than $9.20 for each brand name covered prescription in 2021.

Some people qualify automatically, but other people have to apply. If you think you might qualify for Extra Help, you can apply through the Social Security Administration.