Most employers are doing all they can to keep their employees’ health insurance and health care outlays to a minimum.
And while most of those efforts are focused on the upfront cost of insurance, co-pays and deductibles, many employers fail to help their employees control the very costs they actually have the most control over and one of those areas is medicine.
Helping your employees become wise consumers of health services can also cut your overall insurance costs as well as help your employees conserve more of their own funds if they have high co-pays and deductibles.
The cost of drugs can vary greatly between pharmacies to a shocking degree. And while your employees may have low co-pays for some drugs, if they go to the most expensive option when the insurance is covering the tab, it basically adds to the cost drivers for your insurance plan.
Here’s how wild the price swings can be. Consumer Reports recently surveyed pharmacies to price out a basket of five popular generic prescription drugs and here are the prices:
- Healthwarehouse.com: $66
- Costco: $150
- Various independents: $107
- Sam’s Club: $153
- Walmart: $518
- Kmart: $535
- Grocery stores: $565
- Walgreens: $752
- Rite Aid: $866
- CVS/Target: $928
It also pays to shop around from store to store and ask for discounts.
“A Rite Aid store near our headquarters in Yonkers, N.Y., was able to get the price of atorvastatin, the generic version of Lipitor, down to just $18 from $300 through a combination of in-store and external discount programs,” the report states. “But at another Rite Aid, we were told the cost could only be lowered to $127.”
Consumer Reports recommends that your employees:
- Use online discounts. There are a number of websites that can provide you with discount coupons or vouchers for drugs, including:
- Blink Health
On these sites you enter the name of the drug, dosage and quantity and where you live and it will provide coupons or vouchers and identify which pharmacies you can use them at.
- Expand your shopping horizons. As you can see on the list above, prices vary tremendously. And combining shopping around with a good plan for using coupons and your employees can save themselves and your health plan boat loads of money.
They should also check out their local warehouse discount store as both Costco’s and Sam’s Club’s pharmacies were also quite reasonable.
Not to be outdone, neighborhood pharmacies and grocery store pharmacies were also much cheaper than the large regional drug store chains. “The absolute lowest prices we found in each city we called were almost always at these kinds of stores,” Consumer Reports wrote.
- Ask pharmacies if they will honor online coupons. Pharmacies will almost always honor them, Consumer Reports found. But Consumer Reports mystery shoppers had to be persistent in getting the pharmacies to use them, since they often run prescriptions through insurance automatically, even when paying the retail cash price and using discount coupons would cost less.
One last thing
Consumer Reports recommended that once someone settles on pharmacy that consistently gives them good deals on pharmaceuticals, they should fill all of their prescriptions there.
That way it’s easier for them to spot “potentially dangerous interactions and other safety concerns.”
But if your employees notice that their pharmacy bills start rising noticeably, it may be time for them to start shopping around again. To stay on top of this requires regular checks to make sure that they are not seeing prices creep up.