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Tips for Managing Your Prescription Drug Costs

By Nicole Duritz, vice president of the Financial Security team in the Education and Outreach group at AARP

Nicole Duritz
Melissa Golden

 We all want to find ways to save money. And with today’s rising cost of critical and often life-saving drugs, every penny counts. But don’t fret — there is good news thanks to the cost-saving tips below, and a little help from the Affordable Care Act.

Everyone should:

  • Consider generic drugs:  Ask your doctor if your brand-name medication is available in generic form. Generic drugs are the same as brand-name in dose, quality and safety.  And the average cost of generic drugs can be 80 percent to 85 percent lower than their brand-name counterparts. To find out whether your prescription drugs are available in generic form, visit AARP’s Drug Savings Tool.
  • Order drug comparison guides: Printed guides from AARP and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) can help you compare the benefits, side effects and costs of medications to treat specific health conditions. Learn more by ordering your free online guide.

 If you’re under 65:

  • Get health coverage: Starting October 1, as part of the Affordable Care Act, the new Health Insurance Marketplaces will open. These offer a place to shop for health plans in your state – and find a plan that works for you and your budget. All plans must offer a core set of benefits that includes prescription drug coverage. Now you won’t have to worry about being able to afford your much-needed prescriptions. To learn more, visit the AARP Health Law Guide.

If you have Medicare:

  • Check out Extra Help: Extra Help is a program to help limited-income Medicare recipients pay for drug coverage. To find out if you’re eligible for Extra Help, call the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213.
  • Receive Medicare discounts:  If you have Medicare, use the AARP Doughnut Hole Calculator to learn how you can delay or avoid the Medicare Part D coverage gap, otherwise known as the “doughnut hole.”

Even if you do fall into the doughnut hole, don’t panic — help is now available through a cost-saving benefit in the Affordable Care Act. In 2013, you will get a discount of 52.2 percent off the cost of your brand-name prescriptions, and 21 percent off your generic prescriptions, while you’re in the doughnut hole. These discounts will increase every year until 2020 – when the doughnut hole will be a thing of the past.

Those drug savings adds up. Since the Affordable Care Act was enacted, more than 6.1 million people with Medicare have saved $5.7 billion on prescription drugs. People with Medicare Part D saved an average of $706 while they were in the gap in 2012. Now that’s good news!

To learn more about these and other benefits available under the Affordable Care Act visit AARP’s Health Law Guide.

Nicole Duritz, is Vice President of Health at AARP, leads the Association’s member and consumer health education and outreach program, which includes work on issues such as Medicare, new health care law, prescription drug affordability, long-term care, prevention and wellness, and wise use of medications.


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