Pharmacy discount cards, also known as prescription discount cards, are special cards you can present to receive discounts on medications purchased at your local pharmacy. If your medications are too expensive for you to afford, pharmacy discount cards may make it possible for you to access essential medications.
Even if you can currently afford your prescription costs, you may not wish to pay the high prices normally charged for your medications. Pharmacy discount cards will allow you to reduce those costs and use the money you save for other purposes.
United States Department of Labor figures indicate drug costs rose by over 6 percent from 2015 to 2016. In 2000, consumers paid $25 billion for medications. That amount has been rising annually and is expected to balloon to approximately $67 billion by 2025. Drug prices are on the rise partially because pharmaceutical companies claim they require those funds to produce new medications. In addition, doctors and pharmacists do not always inform patients about available drug discounts. A pharmacy discount card is an excellent way for you to counteract the effects of such problems. However, you must know which cards to use because they are not all equal. Some third party companies can even offer prescriptions savings applications that many consumers can utilize to help save on medication costs, although coverage and discounts will vary. Continue reading the sections below to learn about different types of pharmacy discount cards offered in the United States.
Pharmacy Discount Cards Offered by Pharmacy Franchises
Many popular U.S. pharmacy franchises will now reward you for shopping in their stores. Most of the rewards are tracked using pharmacy discount cards. However, some loyalty programs also offer digital scanning options via cellphone apps. The discount cards for each of the pharmacies vary in terms of the benefits they offer. Many pharmacies can even offer discount programs for generic medications when applicable. However, the cards will typically track your purchases and provide you with benefits based on those purchases. Common benefits include:
- Cash back credits on all in-store purchases.
- Printable or digital coupons.
- Points you can exchange for in-store discounts or special services.
- Prescription drug discounts.
Some discount card programs offered by pharmacy franchise will also reward you for non-shopping actions. For example, you may receive reward points for using on-site clinical services like blood pressure testing and vaccinations. Many pharmacies have implemented such rewards to encourage healthy habits. However, there are some issues you must keep in mind when using pharmacy discount cards. For example, some pharmacy discount cards have the following restrictions:
- A program may not offer discounts on any prescription medications, as the card is just for over-the-counter drugs and/or other store purchases.
- The program may cap the amount of points you can earn each month or the amount you can earn for performing certain actions.
- The discount program may take long periods of time to credit your rewards.
- The pharmacy’s discount card program may limit the length of time you have to use your earned rewards.
Pharmacy Discount Cards Offered by National Organizations
Another excellent source of pharmacy discount cards may be available to you through organizations to which you already have membership. Many national organizations you may typically think of as specializing in unrelated fields are now offering prescription discount cards or prescription discount features incorporated into their standard membership cards. Two of the most well-known organizations offering such benefits are:
- AARP – The OptimRx program will provide you with prescription discounts, if you are an AARP member. You can also reap the benefits of the prescription discounts if you are the stepchild, child or grandchild of a member.
- The American Automobile Association (AAA) – Membership in AAA will typically provide you with benefits like vehicle towing and other car-related services. However, the program also offers some prescription discounts.
The prescription discounts offered by AARP, AAA and similar programs are integrated into the primary programs. Therefore, you only need to present your program membership card to your pharmacist. No extra prescription card will be required. You cannot use such benefits in conjunction with your insurance. However, you can ask the pharmacist to check for program discounts on medications not covered by your insurance. Your medications may also be less expensive when you use program benefits than they would be when purchased through your insurance. In such situations, you can opt to purchase the medications through those programs instead of through your insurance company.
Pharmacy Discount Cards Offered by States
A pharmacy discount card may also be available directly from your state. Several states may offer Pharmaceutical Assistance Programs (PAPs). Such programs are often focused on assisting high-need residents, such as disabled individuals or the elderly. However, some states offer pharmacy discount cards for all residents. If your state has its own assistance program, you will typically be able to print discount cards online from the PAP website for the state for free. Several states are now also offering digital coupons you can receive to your cellphone via text message. Presenting either coupon version to your pharmacist will allow him or her to credit you with available program discounts on the medications you need to purchase.
Pharmacy Discount Cards Offered by Other Sources
There are many pharmacy discount cards you can obtain for free from private companies. Many are nonprofit companies seeking to lower the cost of prescription medications to consumers. One of the well-respected and commonly used of those programs is NeedyMeds. You can print a free NeedyMeds discount prescription card online or fill out a request form to receive a permanent plastic discount card via mail. NeedyMeds also offers many resources to help you save money on your prescriptions. Some of them include information on:
- Patient assistance programs.
- Discount drug programs.
- State assistance programs.
- Free and discount medical care.
Not all medical programs offered by private companies and nonprofit organizations are equal. Some discount medical card scams do exist. Therefore, you must be cautious when applying for them. Signs of a potential discount card scam include:
- Excessive charges for program membership, although some programs that offer pharmacy discounts, such as AAA, require membership payment for all AAA services.
- Cards offer discounts not honored by pharmacies and medical professionals listed as accepting them.
- Fees during or after card use.
- Cards are being marketed as insurance.
A legitimate pharmacy discount card is not a form of insurance. It cannot take the place of insurance coverage. It is simply a coupon card. By using it, you can access a different set of discounts from those offered by your insurance company. Comparing discounts from both sources may allow you to pinpoint better discounts than you would otherwise receive.