How to save money on your prescriptions during the pandemic and beyond

Struggling to pay for prescriptions? There are ways get free or discounted medication
Posted at 1:42 PM, May 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-29 09:41:05-04

Healthcare is at the forefront of so many people’s minds right now — medical bills, rising prescription costs.

According to the FDA, there was already a drug shortage underway before the pandemic.

Couple that with coronavirus, and you may need help with your medications.

“Drug prices are so complicated and so not transparent that it is hard to know what’s going on, but you look for the best deal you can,” said Sharona Hoffman, professor of law and bioethics at Case Western Reserve University.

Hoffman explained that the United States does not regulate prescription drug prices — so manufacturers can set whatever number they want, and insurers can negotiate however they want.

And sometimes, that ends up with the cost of our prescriptions making us sick. Hoffman said she has seen no indication of costs leveling off, and in fact, most are continuing to rise.

And we know even with tighter budgets, job losses and cut hours during the pandemic — chronic illnesses don’t go away.

If your child has asthma, you still need those inhalers.

If you suffer from anxiety or depression, you still need your prescriptions.

With so many people struggling to make ends meet, it can be tough to spend money on medication — you might even be thinking about skipping or spacing out doses.

But Hoffman said it’s crucial that you prioritize getting prescriptions you need -- do not decrease your dosage to save money.

“It is a lot more expensive to end up in the hospital because you haven’t taken your medication and you have an emergency,” Hoffman said.

So here’s some advice on cutting costs:

First, always try to get the generic version.

But be sure to ask your doctor if it works just the same. In some cases, like for depression drugs, the brand name can be the only way to go.

Second, look online for coupons directly on the manufacturers’ website or use apps like WeRX or GoodRX.

Even though they sound too good to be true sometimes — chopping hundreds off your prescription bill — experts say they are legit.

And finally, have a conversation with your pharmacist.

“Sometimes, oddly, it is cheaper not to use your insurance than it is to use your insurance,” Hoffman said. “And your pharmacist should be able to give you some price comparisons if you ask.”

There is also help available through this resource guide for prescription medications provided by ADAMHS.

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Reopening Ohio
Gov. Mike DeWine and the State of Ohio have established a plan to begin reopening Ohio businesses starting May 1. Below is a timeline of the businesses allowed to reopen.

May 1: Medical care – non-essential surgeries and procedures that do not require an overnight stay will be allowed beginning May 1.
May 4: Manufacturing, distribution and construction businesses that were ordered to cease activities may reopen on May 4, as well as general office environments.
May 12: Retail establishments and facilities will be allowed to reopen on May 12.
May 15: Salons, barbershops, day spas, tanning facilities, massage parlors, tattoo parlors and piercing businesses. Restaurants will be allowed to serve patrons on outdoor patios. More details here.
May 21: Restaurants and bars will be allowed to reopen for dine-in service. Read more here. Campgrounds will be allowed to reopen. Read more here.
May 22: Horse racing will be allowed to resume, with no spectators. Casinos and Racinos are not included in the reopening. Read more here.
May 26: Gyms, fitness centers, regulated pools, recreation centers and studios will be allowed to reopen, with new requirements. Non-contact and limited-contact sports leagues, such as golf, baseball and tennis will be allowed to resume. BMVs across Ohio will reopen, but government officials encourage citizens to utilize the BMVs online services when possible. Read more here.
May 31: Day care centers will be able to reopen in Ohio. Read more about the plan to reopen day cares here. Day camps and summer camps will also be allowed to operate. Details on that here.

While these announced reopenings encompass the majority of the businesses, agencies and events closed and canceled by the state's orders, the governor has not yet made an annoucements on when K-12 schools in the state will reopen, nor when places of public amusement, such as theme parks, gambling businesses, skating rinks, movie theaters, and others will be allowed to reopen. See a full list of indoor and outdoor places that remain closed here.

Click here for more details on the state's "Responsible RestartOhio" plan.