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How to Cut the Costs of Prescription Drugs

Paying cash for generics sold at Walmart, Costco and Target may be cheaper than your insurance co-pay.


I have to pay much more out of pocket for prescription drugs than I did in the past. What can I do to reduce these costs? --S.R., Tampa

See Also: 50 Ways to Cut Your Health Care Costs

Prescription drug costs spiked 13.6% from 2014 to 2015 for a family of four with employer coverage, according to the Milliman Medical index. That’s why it’s important to compare out-of-pocket costs for your drugs when picking a plan each year and to review the differences in co-pays within each plan.

Generic drugs can cost up to 85% less than brand-name versions. Ask your doctor if you can switch. And generic prices can vary even within the same category, says John Lee, a senior director at Walgreens. Your pharmacist should be able to point you to the least-expensive option. Paying cash for generics sold at Walmart, Costco and Target, or through the Walgreens prescription savings club, may be cheaper than your insurance co-pay.


Most insurers now have preferred pharmacies, which have lower co-pays than other in-network pharmacies. For instance, you might pay a $1 co-pay for a preferred generic instead of $10; $4 for a non-preferred generic instead of $33; and 35% of the cost instead of 50% for non-preferred brand-name drugs. Your insurer may have a preferred mail-order pharmacy that charges no co-pay for certain generics. Filling the prescription for 90 days rather than 30 can also reduce your co-payments.

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