Discounted Drugs

By Mary Hunt

June 12, 2013 4 min read

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 whether I'd changed insurance. I said that 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 Program and whether my prescriptions would qualify. She hesitated and 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 have been 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 that this is a discount program offered by Rite Aid; 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 for years to fill generic prescriptions, and not once did anyone mention that I could save with the 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 whether they discount automatically or whether 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. In my research, I discovered that the Costco Member Prescription Program offers a discount on all brand-name 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 and filled out the form, and I'm all signed up.

Mary Hunt's column, "Everyday Cheapskate," can be found at http://TheCoralMag.com.

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