I told my doctor recently that my new health insurance company was HealthPartners and that HP had denied coverage for one of my prescriptions. I explained to him that I was filing an appeal to get coverage. His answer was not comforting. “HP is a bunch of cheap……” I laughed when he started to swear at them.
I wasn’t laughing as hard when the denial of my appeal came in the mail as he predicted. The drug is not cheap, even though it’s generic. A 30-day supply at Target cost me $155 without insurance. I’m embarrassed to admit this, but once I realized it was an out-of-pocket expense, I started comparison shopping. A 100 day supply of the same drug was $165 at Costco, a 70 percent difference. Then I started taking my own advice and checked prices at the Minnesota Senior Federation (1-866-783-5045), which offers competitive prices for anyone, not just seniors. For this drug, the Senior Fed’s price ($135 for 30 tablets) wasn’t so competitive. Then I checked I checked Thrifty White Drug mail order in Fargo (1-866-903-5720). The price ($126 including shipping) is about 25 percent cheaper than Costco. I mailed my Rx to Thrifty and received it within a week without any problems. (I didn’t check Canadian sources because the drug is generic. Canadian prices are more competitive on brand name drugs.)
I could probably get a local pharmacy to match Thrifty’s low price, but I’m not going to do it. Why? Because then I’m taking business away from a decent pharmacy that is valiantly taking a lower profit margin. If too many people go to the competitor to price-match, Thrifty goes out of business and prices stay high. I believe in supporting the the original, low-priced business. Anecdotally, I hear about senior citizens who continue to shop at their neighhborhood Walgreens because of the personal relationship with the pharmacist. Unfortunately, Walgreens is often the highest priced pharmacy, according to my past price comparisons. In fairness, however, Walgreens’ price on my Rx was $134, slightly less than Target.
If you’re paying out of pocket for any prescription due to unemployment or a cost-cutting HMO, try Costco, Sam’s Club or Thrifty White. By the way, you do not have to be a member of Costco or Sam’s to use the pharmacy. Anyone else done a little comparison shopping on prescriptions or find themselves at odds with an HMO? Write to me.