Trying to make ends meet is a daily struggle that many Americans are very familiar with. And the problem isn’t just experienced by our seniors who are finding it harder and harder to get by on a measly monthly social security check. More and more younger adults and middle class families are living paycheck to paycheck according to recent studies and surveys. As a pharmacist, I will admit I am sometimes disappointed in the lack of financial sensitivity that some in the medical profession seem to have. It is easy to talk about the long-term savings of sticking with your prescribed medication. But the fact is that families need to put food on the table tonight, and long-term savings won’t pay the short-term bills.
I believe that a PRESCRIPTION DISCOUNT CARD is a FREE, safe and effective tool to help certain patients reduce their monthly prescription expenses and help them afford and adhere to their prescribed therapy.
But prescription discount cards are often misunderstood by patients. Even many healthcare professionals don’t really understand how they work. Having worked for 7 years in a setting where I spent hundreds of hours analyzing health plan and formulary data, I’m confident I can explain how these cards work and hopefully encourage more patients to use one if necessary.
WHAT IS A PRESCRIPTION DISCOUNT CARD?
A prescription discount card is typically a FREE card, often handed out in doctor’s offices, that enables the patient to enjoy a discount (sometimes significant!) on prescriptions which they would otherwise have to pay for out of pocket. Prescription discount cards are NOT insurance. They pay nothing to the pharmacy, and they collect no premiums from the patient. They are discount cards. Kind of like the way certain businesses offer a discount to AAA members.
HOW DOES A PRESCRIPTION DISCOUNT CARD WORK?
So if patients don’t PAY for the card, how exactly do these cards work? The fact is that all prescription discount cards are run by one PBM (pharmacy benefit manager) or another. When a patient presents the pharmacy with the discount card the pharmacy submits the patient’s prescription information to the card and a discounted price is returned to the pharmacy from the PBM. The pharmacy agrees to accept the lower price on the prescription for the same reason that pharmacies often offer other sales & promotions, match competitor coupons or offer a Reward’s Card program: patient satisfaction and loyalty. Part of the discounted price (known as the “fee”) is paid to the PBM, typically somewhere between $1.00 and $5.00. That is how the PBM pays for the production and marketing of these cards.
WHEN CAN A PATIENT USE A PRESCRIPTION DISCOUNT CARD?
A prescription discount card can be used on virtually any prescription for which the patient would otherwise have to pay the regular cash price (known as the “usual and customary” price).
This would include:
All prescriptions for patients that have no insurance (even those temporarily without insurance due to job transitions or other factors)
Uncovered prescription medications (prescriptions that your insurance doesn’t cover)
Prescriptions beyond your insurance limits (for example if your health plan only covers 6 tablets of your medicine per month, but your prescription allows you to get more).
Prescriptions for your pets!
HOW MANY TYPES OF PRESCRIPTION DISCOUNT CARDS ARE OUT THERE?
A lot. A quick internet search will bring up links to dozens of different companies each offering their own prescription discount card. Because they are all run by different PBM’s, they will all offer slightly different discounts and also will charge slightly different fees to the pharmacy. Over the course of 20 years in retail pharmacy, I figure I have probably used virtually all of them at one time or another.
No single card will ALWAYS have the best price on EVERY drug, just like no grocery store will ALWAYS have the best price on EVERY item they sell.
If, however, I had to recommend 1 particular FREE prescription discount card, the one I currently would recommend is called The Medication Card. I recommend this card because it carries the LOWEST fee to the pharmacy of any card I have researched (why pay the PBM more?), and also they provide a good, solid discounted price to patients.
GETTING A FREE PRESCRIPTION DISCOUNT CARD
It’s easy. To get your FREE prescription discount card that you can print and use IMMEDIATELY simply go to the Medication Card Website by CLICKING HERE! Scroll down to the bottom where you will see an image that reads “FREE DRUG CARD – PRINT NOW.” Click the link and print your card! It’s that easy. You do NOT have to give an email address, phone number or even a name. Just print it and bring it with you to the pharmacy. It is accepted at MOST of the large pharmacy retailers and at MANY of the smaller chains and independents. IF for some reason you cannot print this card, all the pharmacy needs to know are these four numbers (write these down): BIN# 610219 PCN# DRX GROUP # MCSAVE363 ID # (Your Phone Number) Just write those numbers down and bring them to your pharmacy. It’s that easy.
HOW TO USE THE DISCOUNT CARD:
That’s easy too. Once you have printed the prescription discount card, just bring it with you to the pharmacy the next time you are in. Ask them to put this card in your profile and use it when filling your next prescription. Remember, it can only be used if your prescription is not already covered by another commercial, State or Federal prescription plan. Any time you fill such a prescription, be sure to ask the pharmacy technician or cashier if they remembered to process the prescription through your prescription discount card. The only piece of personal information needed to process your prescription through this free discount card will be a phone number. They use that as your ID number. You will NOT get phone calls from the company and they will not sell or share your personal information with anyone else.
A FREE prescription discount card isn’t complicated. Sadly, many patients don’t bother to take the time to bring a card like the one mentioned above to their pharmacy. I’m not sure why. I know they are often paying more than they need to. Patients should know that not every pharmacy accepts these, and some pharmacy chains have their own version of a discount card. I also realize that some pharmacy owners are skeptical of these cards and don’t like them. They feel they are biting off too much of their profits and are benefiting the PBM’s. I respect your opinions. I can only tell you that I have worked to help independent pharmacies do budgets & marketing for many years…and these cards do NOT cost you nearly as much as many other wasted dollars in marketing that have not helped you or saved patients any money. Many pharmacies would do much better to advertise their ACCEPTANCE of these cards to local physicians rather than refusing them or engaging in the risky business of changing their usual and customary price for certain patients.
©Jason Poquette and The Honest Apothecary. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts, quotes and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jason Poquette and The Honest Apothecary with appropriate and specific links to the original content.
Last modified: April 17, 2023