How to leverage prescription discount drug cards to your benefit
The non-insurance option is reducing prescription costs for consumers
Many employees in Colorado and across the U.S. are now making health insurance decisions for the year ahead. Simultaneously, conversations in Washington surrounding prescription drug prices continue to grow louder with no immediate solution in sight.
Americans currently spend about $1 billion a day on prescription drugs, and this number is expected to continue to rise. Such increases will only contribute to rising private health insurance premiums and a continued burden on family budgets.
As employers communicate their benefit program’s options to all eligible employees, it is important that employers and employees alike are aware of additional options — separate from health insurance — that could help enhance health while saving money.
Enter prescription discount drug cards.
Prescription Discount Drug Cards
Designed to help lower the cost of the most prescribed medications, discount drug cards operate like coupons for prescription medications. Because these cards are separate from health insurance (although you can use them even if you have health insurance and choose the lowest price), they are free — one must simply download the card to use the service immediately.
These services make money by charging the participating in-network pharmacies a small fee for each transaction. Though they all work in a similar fashion, no one card offers the best price for every drug. Savings vary depending on the card and pharmacy, but most users report significant savings just by utilizing the card.
Researching Discount Drug Cards
It can be hard to know which of these discount drug services is really looking out for you. Here are four recommendations to find the right service for you and your employees.
Look for a .pharmacy designation by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP)
The NABP .pharmacy designation verifies legitimate discount prescription programs. The .pharmacy domain cannot be faked or forged, and it allows consumers to know the site offering the discount has been verified as safe.
It's also important to note that receiving this designation is not simple. The challenging, laborious process requires drug card companies to pay to validate that the information on their website is correct. In addition to significant time and effort, the designation requires annual renewal, so ongoing maintenance is necessary.
Out of nearly 12,000 websites reviewed by NABP, almost 95% operate out of compliance with NABP patient safety and pharmacy practice standards or applicable laws. Look for the .pharmacy domain or logo on the site to be sure you’re using a legitimate service.
Know what’s happening with your personal data
Is the discount card company collecting your data? Unfortunately, some of these services require you to give up personal information, claiming it will better keep track of customer payments and benefits. But entirely too often, the organizations collecting this customer data may sell it.
While it’s always a good practice to protect your personal data online, there are discount drug card services you can use without having to give up your personal information. Check the organization’s privacy statement to know what’s happening with your personal data before signing up.
Watch for discount prices that may not be the lowest price
While card services negotiate discounts, some prescription discount cards fail to compare their discount to the pharmacy price, which may be lower. As such, their cards may still have a higher price.
To get the lowest price, do your homework. First, look up the discount for your prescription on the card's website or app. Then, research “lower-of pricing” when assessing the myriad options. This structure ensures the card will only charge consumers the lowest prices, whether through the card or the pharmacy. If a discount drug card does not note lower-of pricing on their site, they may not always offer prescriptions at the lowest price available.
Beware of potentially deceptive advertising or marketing
Some discount cards may be employing deceptive advertising or marketing tactics to stand out from the competition. Take claims that boast 90% off prescription drug prices as an example. While some prescriptions may be discounted up to 90%, it’s unlikely you’ll receive 90% off every medication. Additionally, some companies take advantage of consumers, trying to appear associated with the government or with a charity organization when they are not.
Rather than searching your drug’s name and price on Google, consider services that find and compare prescription prices through a free and easy-to-use app and website. The discount drug card market requires some research, but these convenient “coupons” save money and encourage people to take charge of their own health care.
Marianne G. Morgan is the CEO of Easy Drug Card, a Colorado-based company that has been helping consumers discover the best discounts on prescription medications since 2006.