Access to affordable health care, particularly prescription drugs, is critical to maintaining your whole person health. Approximately 60% of adults in the United States report that they take at least one prescription medication and a 25% say they currently take four or more. And for those who are taking multiple prescription drugs, many say they face difficulties with being able to afford these medications.
“Every American deserves to have access to affordable medications – when they need them – from a pharmacy they trust. Prescription medications help millions of people stay healthy every day, but many individuals aren’t getting the best value for their medications, which can impact medication adherence and the overall health, well-being and vitality of our communities.”Candice Michaelson, vice president, pharmacy product strategy, Cigna.
The cost for prescription drugs can vary widely. But, there are steps that consumers can take to ensure they get the most bang for their buck. Below, we dive into some of the ways that people can save money on prescription drugs.
1. Switch to a Generic or Biosimilar
Check your health plan’s prescription drug list. Don’t see your medication listed? Talk to your doctor about prescribing an alternative that is clinically appropriate and more affordable. This could mean switching to a generic or biosimilar.
Generics and biosimilars can be just as effective as brand name alternatives. The primary difference between a brand name drug and a generic or biosimilar for the consumer comes down to cost. As the adoption of generics and biosimilars as alternatives to traditional brand and specialty drugs grows, so does the overall savings.
There are a number of generics available today that can be used as alternatives to common prescriptions for cholesterol, blood pressure and birth control, to name just a few. Generics represent nine out of every 10 prescriptions dispensed in the United States. The 2021 U.S. Generic and Biosimilar Medicines Savings Report, shows the average generic copay is $6.61, while the average non-specialty brand-name copay is $55.82.
Alternatively, more biosimilars are being introduced each year. Biosimilars are less expensive, clinically equivalent alternative to branded biologic products, and can be prescribed in place of expensive specialty brand named drugs, which are used to treat complex conditions like cancer. The same report demonstrated oncology spending growth declined from about 16% in 2018 to 10% in 2020 as a direct result of biosimilar competition.
In 2020, individual consumers and the health care system saved $338.4 billion in generic and biosimilar savings, when compared to 2019.
2. Use Your Pharmacy Insurance Card
With Cigna pharmacy benefits, members don’t need to compare prices on generic drugs to know they are getting the best price. Cigna integrated pharmacy customers now have access to lower pricing on their prescriptions.
And, as an added benefit for the consumer, starting in early 2023, Price Assure, Powered by GoodRx, will be available to all Cigna Health Plan clients. This program aims to help people access better pricing that may be available for certain medications without having to shop around for coupons or discount cards at the pharmacy counter. When available for certain prescription claims, Price Assure will automatically leverage GoodRx’s prescription prices for the customer. Price Assure, Powered by GoodRx, will be available to participating Cigna Health Plan clients and includes most commonly used generics filled at any in-network retail pharmacy where GoodRx discount cards are accepted.
For non-Cigna customers, check with your insurance plan to learn about cost saving opportunities specifically for pharmacy care.
3. Request a 90-day Supply Delivered to Your Door
For the prescriptions you take regularly, you may be able to save by opting for 90-day refills delivered to your doorstep. Mail order can also save you money and make receiving your medications easy – with no trip to the pharmacy required. And, sign up for automatic refills or refill reminders so you don’t miss a dose, and can keep management of your health condition on track. Internal analysis performed by Cigna in 2021, demonstrated switching to 90-day refills increased medication adherence among customers by 12% and lowered avoidable inpatient visits by 14%.
4. Use an HSA to Cover Out-of-Pocket Expenses
If you have a health plan through your employer, explore your options to open a health savings account. Both employers and members may contribute to the account, up to the federal limit, which is $7,300 for 2022. Contributions can be made with pre-tax dollars, which reduces taxable income. Additionally, HSA funds earn interest tax free, and taxes are not paid on the money when it is used to pay for eligible healthcare expenses like prescription drugs.
5. Be Proactive About Maintaining a Healthy Lifestyle and Seeking Preventative Care
Lastly, seeking out preventative care, like an annual check-up, health assessment or biometric screening, can help detect illness or disease early so it’s more likely to be preventable or treatable. Getting ahead of an illness or disease, can help reduce your need to take medicine.
After getting your results, work with your doctor or Cigna health coach to create a roadmap for setting and achieving your short- and long-term health goals. Whether that’s incorporating more exercise, quitting smoking or getting up-to-date on your immunizations, work with your doctor or health coach to commit to a plan. Additionally, preventative care is often covered under your health plan at no additional cost to you. Just check your health plan for details about what is covered as a preventative care service.
“It’s important to be proactive about maintaining a healthy lifestyle to prevent disease and manage chronic conditions, which in turn leads to spending less on healthcare expenses, including medications, overtime. One of the best ways to save money is to invest in yourself,” said Michaelson.
Making Health Care More Simple, Affordable and Predictable
At Cigna, we are committed to driving prescription drug affordability for all Americans. Managing pharmacy costs for our customers is very much in-line with our goal to make health care affordable, predictable and simple.
We believe that driving affordability for prescription drugs will help improve medication adherence, which results in better health outcomes for patients. And this is what we strive to achieve each and every day.
Improving Affordability and Safety at the Pharmacy
Express Scripts (part of Cigna Corporation) is collaborating with GoodRx to expand savings at the pharmacy counter while improving adherence, safety and overall health outcomes.