How to save money on prescription drugs

Save Money

HICAP has compiled helpful information on a variety of ways to save money on your prescriptions. Note that some of this information may not be current.

Click here for a printable copy of the following information.

If you have Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage: 

Review your Plan every year, and change plans if needed.  Plans change their coverage every year.  You could spend thousands more on prescriptions if you don’t review your plan and change it if needed during Open Enrollment (Oct. 15th to Dec. 7th  each year.)

Take advantage of available options in your plan.  If available in your plan, preferred pharmacies or mail order could save you money.

Apply for Extra Help. Could you qualify for this money-saving program?   Your prescription costs could be greatly reduced.  If your gross income does not exceed $1,485/mo. with resources less than $13,640, you should qualify.  Married couples whose incomes do not exceed $2,003/mo. with resources less than $27,250 should qualify.  Your home, car, and personal possessions are not counted as resources. While IRAs and other tax-qualified retirement accounts are counted as resources, monthly withdrawals from them are not counted as income. Furthermore, if you’re working then only about half of your earned income counts. See HICAP for more information and for help applying. Extra Help

HICAP can help you apply.  Call 925-602-4163 or 1-800-510-2020 (from land lines only.)  Or apply online at the Social Security website,

Click here to see our chart with more information about Extra Help and other low income Medicare savings programs.


Saving money with or without Medicare Coverage:

Could you qualify for Veteran’s drug coverage? Veterans may qualify for VA drug coverage with low co-pays.  To learn more, contact the county Veteran’s Service Branch at 925.313.1481.

Could you qualify for any pharmaceutical company Patient Assistance Programs (PAPs)? Once qualified, a patient can get an expensive drug for little or no cost.  These full PAP benefits are income based.  However many manufacturer programs also offer discount cards and coupons that are not income based.

Each drug maker sets its own rules for who qualifies.  Some will disqualify anyone with Medicare. Some will allow people in the coverage gap to apply.  If you apply and are disqualified, appeal.  Many appeals are successful. To identify these programs, learn their rules, and apply, check or

Could you qualify for a condition-based program?  Several programs offer help with pharmacy copays for persons with certain serious medical conditions.  To qualify you must have one of the covered diagnoses, be within the income limits, and have insurance, such as Medicare. Three such programs are:,, and  Many other diagnosis-based programs for a variety of conditions are listed on

Switch from brand to generic drugs, with your doctor’s agreement.  Brand drugs cost many times more than generics.  If your drug does not have a generic equivalent, ask your physician if there are alternative generic medications that might accomplish the same purpose as the brand drug.  You could save a lot.

Consumer Reports/Best Buy Drugs compares the most common brand and generic drugs for many conditions and provides evidence-based results showing which are most effective for the lowest cost.  See

Ask your doctor about switching between brands of similar drugs if there is another brand that offers a Patient Assistance Program for which you may qualify. Of course, even though a different brand of a similar drug exists, it may not be right for you, so you need to work with your doctor.

Can you split your pills?  Ask your physician if it’s possible to order a larger size dose and use a pill splitter to cut the tablet in half.  Often, for example, a 100 mg. tablet costs little more than a 50 mg. tablet.  But be sure your doctor agrees this will be safe.  Not all pills can be split.

Ask your physician for drug samples, if available.

Check out the Prescription Drug Discount Program for Medicare Recipients.  A little- known California law enables any Medicare recipient to obtain prescriptions at a cost no higher than the MediCal price.  You do not have to be on Medi-Cal.  You can have insurance, but you can’t use it to get this price.  You must pay the cost yourself and show your Medicare card.  This doesn’t always work, but it is worth trying.  Ask about this at your pharmacy—or try another pharmacy. Go here  for more information.

Look for discounts.  Some programs will allow individuals to get a month’s supply of brand drugs for free, or at a significant discount.  See, or for details.

Use a prescription discount card.  The Coast2coast card is endorsed by Contra Costa County. and also offer discount cards. All are free, can be used immediately by all family members, and can offer significant discounts at the pharmacy.  See, or, or

Check out the generic drug programs offered by some pharmacies. Rite-Aid, Wal-Mart and some other pharmacies offer hundreds of commonly prescribed generic medications for as little as $4 for one month or $10 for three months.  Do not use your prescription plan card.

Two programs offer generic drugs through the mail at low prices:  RxOutreach and Xubex Pharmaceutical Services.  These plans cover many generic drugs not covered by the retail stores mentioned above.  You can get a 90 or 180 day supply of a drug for a greatly reduced price; the price varies with the drug.  In some cases there are income limitations, but they are higher than the Patient Assistance Programs.  Having Medicare is not an obstacle.  See or for details.

Check out Costco.  You do not have to be a Costco member to get prescriptions filled there. They are known for having generally low prices, especially for generics.

Beware of using on-line Canadian pharmacies. They appear safe, but no agency regulates these businesses.  Many websites are actually located in other countries.  The drugs may be counterfeit or unsafe.  And sometimes these sites are seeking to exploit your credit card information.   

 For safe online prescriptions, choose sites designated VIPPS.  These are Verified Internet Pharmacy Provider Sites, verified by the National Pharmacy Board Association.

Exploring these cost-saving options could save you a lot of money.  Registered HICAP counselors can help.  To schedule an individual confidential appointment contact HICAP at 925-602-4163 or 1-800-5102020 (land lines only.) 

Disclaimer: This article is not able to incorporate all of the discount prescription drug programs, sources of low cost prescription drugs and useful information on this topic. Its intention is to provide examples of services and useful strategies. The Health Insurance Counseling and Advocacy Program (HICAP) and its registered counselors do not provide medical advice.  

Printable copy: How-to-Save-Money-on-Prescription-Drugs.updated.3.15.16.pdf

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