Americans spend a lot on prescription drugs. In fact, they spent $323.2 million on them in 2015. Drug prices continue to rise, with one study finding they doubled between 2006 and 2013. These costs are especially tough for people on fixed incomes like seniors.

Luckily, there are ways to make prescription drugs more affordable. Chief among them is having Medicare Part D coverage. But, if you’re looking for additional assistance, you may have a few options.

See If You Qualify for Extra Help

Several programs exist that help seniors pay for prescription drugs. If you’re on Medicare, the Extra Help program can be a lifesaver. To qualify for Extra Help, you must be within certain annual income limits. In 2019, these limits were $18,210 for a single individual or $24,690 for a married couple residing together. Resources may only add up to $12,600 for a single individual or $25,150 for a married couple residing with one another. These numbers are subject to change each year, so keep an eye out for any updates from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Depending on your circumstances, you may qualify for full or partial coverage. Regardless, if you receive Extra Help, you won’t pay the entire cost of your prescription drugs.

Join a Prescription Drug Assistance Program

If you don’t qualify for Extra Help, there are other possibilities for you. For instance, many states have State Pharmaceutical Assistance Programs, or SPAPs, to help seniors afford their prescription drugs. Eligibility rules vary by state. To find what SPAPs are available in your area, check out Medicare’s SPAP Index.

There are also other kinds of prescription drug assistance programs that you might be able to join. One example is pharmaceutical assistance programs. These are offered by some pharmaceutical companies.

Buy Generic Drugs, Not Brand-Name

Aside from assistance programs, there are additional means for saving on prescription drugs. One of the most prevalent pieces of advice is to shop for generic drugs instead of brand-name versions. Generic drugs have saved Americans over a trillion dollars since 2007, and are effectively no different from name brand drugs. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) states that generics must meet the same standards as name brand.

In fact, generics must have the same active ingredients, dosage, method of administration, and levels of stability, strength, safety, and effectiveness. They may differ from brand-name drugs in their shape, color, size, packaging, inactive ingredients, or absorption rate, and of course, cost. On average, generics can cost 80 to 85 percent less than name brand drugs.

Shop Around for Better Prices

Even if you’re going with generics, you can save extra cash by shopping around at different pharmacies. Drug prices can be quite different from store to store, and may be more affordable at an in-network pharmacy depending on your plan. Additionally, some prescription drug plans have preferred in-network pharmacies where drugs you can get prescriptions filled at even lower cost. Check around different shops near you to see which prices are best.

Two websites that make it simpler to scout prices near you are GoodRx and LowestMed. Simply input your drug name and location, and start comparing prices. Some drugs may differ as much as 10 times between stores!

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Outside of a Medicare Part D or Part C plan with drug coverage, there are strategies you can use to make the cost of your prescription drugs more bearable. By knowing your options, you can prevent yourself from having to choose between vital medication and financial stability.

Further Reading

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services — Your Guide to Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage