Watching your medication costs might save your job!

Who know?  This shocked me when I heard it.

I recently took a call from a human resources worker at a company. One of their new hires had a medication that he took daily and the HR lady needed to know how much it was going to cost. Why? Because the cost of insuring that patient was going to affect whether they could afford to renew the insurance for their company. The story had a happy ending because I was able to tell the HR lady that the medicine would be $1,500 a month to cover, not the $45,000 a month they had feared, but what if it had been that much? A talented, skilled employee might have been let go or might have had to go to an insurance exchange because the company couldn’t afford to keep him insured.

Sometimes medications are expensive for a good reason – because the medications are highly effective, expensive to make, or for many other reasons. However, sometimes doctors will choose newer, more expensive medications because a drug rep said so, or because they aren’t thinking about the cost. It’s definitely worth a chat next time you see your doctor, and another chat with your insurance company. There very well may be a good medication that has been out longer, has had more time for the price to drop, and will work just fine for you! Keep in mind that most doctors aren’t aware of the cost of medications, or what your drug coverage is.

Most of the time, the best place to start is by calling your prescription insurance company and talking with one of their pharmacists. Working with the customer service representative, they can tell you what lower cost alternatives are, price them out, so you can then ask the doctor if a change would be appropriate. I’ve seen this save people many thousands of dollars without sacrificing any quality.

Personally, when I take medication, I try to ask for older, tried and true medications that are well understood and well studied. I let someone else be the high-paying guinea pig.

Help for buying Epi-pens if you don’t have insurance (or even if you do)

Epi-pens are in the news lately because of their price jump.

I have a way of making that better.  I won’t lie, you still may have to pay a lot, but you won’t have to pay over a thousand dollars for a two pack of Epipens if you use this trick.

Epi-pens actually have a generic form that costs a lot less than the brand. The problem is, not all the pharmacies have the two linked together in their drug catalogs – so if you ask a customer service agent or pharmacy tech about it, they may not automatically see the alternative.

The alternative to an Epi-pen is called simply ‘epinephrine auto injector.” It usually costs three or four hundred for a two pack without insurance, which is a lot, but it’s a whole lot less than the brand name currently is.

If you do have insurance and want to pay the generic copay, call in and ask the customer service agent if there are any “alternatives” to the Epi pen. That’s the magic word. If you say “does the Epi pen have a generic?” the agent may check, not see one, and not think to ask a pharmacist.

The difference between a generic and an alternative is simple. A generic is the same active ingredient as the original brand, just made by a different company, and only the inactive ingredients are supposed to be different. An alternative is usually a slightly different drug that is used to treat the same condition.   Put simply, an Epi-pen IS an epinephrine auto injector, but not all epinephrine auto injectors are made by Epi-pen.

The thing is here, both an Epi-pen and an “epinephrine auto injector” should be on the same project page because they contain the same thing. But they often don’t, so you can save a lot of money, and possibly a loved one’s life.