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Everyday Cheapskate: With generic drugs, you gotta speak up

I want to tell you about a shocking encounter I had recently at my local Rite Aid pharmacy. But first, a little background information.

For years, my doctor has prescribed two preventive-type medications. Both are generics, and together they have cost me about $24 for a 30-day supply for quite a few years. Given that my health insurance at the time included prescriptions, it never dawned on me to check into the details or to search for a cheaper alternative.

I changed health insurance providers recently. My new coverage does not include prescriptions, a small matter that slipped my mind as I drove through to pick up my most recent refills. The pharmacist asked if I’d changed insurance, I said yes I had, and she responded with, “That will be $178, please.” What?!

Once I picked my jaw up off the floor, I asked her why the price was so high. She had a long explanation about my previous insurance coverage, pharmaceuticals and the high cost of meds. I could not get home fast enough to search for a cheaper place to get these meds filled in the future.

I had to look at the search results three times before I could believe what I was reading. One of the links was to Rite Aid Rx Savings Program. I input the two medications in the search box provided, and the price quote came back as less than $26 total for a 90-day supply for both medications — about $8.75 per month, not even close to the $26 I had been paying with insurance all those years before.

I grabbed the receipts, bottles and paperwork, and stormed back to Rite Aid. I asked the same pharmacy employee about the Rite Aid Rx Savings Plan and would my prescriptions qualify? She hesitated, then asked me why I hadn’t requested information on the program when I was there earlier. I bit my tongue. I did not lash out with, “Well that would be rather difficult in that I did not know about your Savings Plan.” It took a lot of restraint, but I remained calm as she handed back my prescriptions, receipts and $150 cash.

I learned this is a discount program offered by Rite Aid Pharmacy; it is not health insurance or in any way related to a Medicare drug plan. The company’s website states that this plan is helpful for people who don’t have insurance or are underinsured. I have used Rite Aid Pharmacy for years to fill generic prescriptions, and not once did anyone mention that I could save with their discount program.

I am learning that Rite Aid is not the only pharmacy with a generic drug discount program. Wal-Mart, Target, CVS and Walgreens, to name a few, advertise similar plans. I don’t know if they discount automatically or if customers must first inquire. Given my experience, however, I would suggest that you not assume you are getting the best price if you use these pharmacies for generic prescription drugs. Speak up. Inquire. Ask for a discount.

As for my next refill, I will not be returning to Rite Aid Pharmacy. In my research, I discovered that the Costco Member Prescription Program offers a discount on all branded and generic prescription medications over Costco’s already low prices. That will bring my cost down even further.

From now on, I am leaving nothing to chance. I’ve inquired at Costco, filled out the form, and I’m all signed up.

Mary Hunt is the founder of www.DebtProofLiving.com and author of 23 books, including her 2012 release, “7 Money Rules for Life.” You can email her at mary@everydaycheapskate.com, or write to Everyday Cheapskate, P.O. Box 2099, Cypress, CA 90630. To find out more about Mary Hunt and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

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