5 Ways to Keep Your Costs Low With a High Deductible Plan

Roni Shye
Roni Shye, PharmD BCGP BCACP, is a licensed pharmacist in the states of Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
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Are you trying to make sense of your high deductible health insurance plan (HDHP) but don’t know where to start? If you are new to having a high deductible plan, you’re not alone. Many employers are switching over to high deductible health insurance plans this year—which can mean some sticker shock if you’re asked to pay more for your prescriptions.

First, it’s important to get to know your health insurance plan inside and out. Check out your benefits guide, and remember to ask questions if you don’t understand anything. Most companies have human resource or health insurance representatives that can answer your questions.

Otherwise, wether you’ve had a HDHP for two months or two years you may be able to benefit from a few saving suggestions:

1. Use your FSA or HSA to pay

If your employer offers a flexible spending account (FSA) or a health savings account (HSA), you should strongly consider taking advantage of the option.

You can contribute money from your own paycheck towards your FSA or HSA—and your contributions are not subject to payroll taxes. This means you end up paying less in taxes and getting to use more of your paycheck.

There are some restrictions on what you can use the money for, but both FSA and HSA accounts allow you pay for qualified healthcare expenses like prescription and OTC medications and doctor’s office co-pays, among other things.

Some employers can also contribute to your FSA or HSA account. Many companies offer contributions as an incentive if you successfully complete a health assessment, biometric screening, or online health profile.

Check out a list of qualified expenses here.

Tip: Your FSA or HSA will look like a credit card. Make sure you don’t misplace or cut it up thinking it was one of the many credit card offers that come in the mail!

Important: If you are struggling to make it through your deductible and need more money in your pocket, using your FSA or HSA can help.

2. Take advantage of employee incentives

Many companies offer incentives like free healthcare or biometric screenings to make sure their employees are staying healthy. These screenings usually involve a finger-prick test that gives you an idea of your total cholesterol, bad cholesterol, good cholesterol, and blood sugar. Your height, weight, and waist circumference may also be used to calculate your body mass index (BMI) to help show whether you should focus on weight loss and healthier eating habits.

You can use these results to effectively manage your own health by committing to lifestyle modifications like changing your diet or increasing exercise . . . which can help improve many chronic conditions like high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes.

Lifestyle modifications are hard work but in the long run could potentially allow you to get off of many of your medications which in turn saves you money!

Important: If you don’t usually go to the doctor unless you’re sick, these types of screenings can give you an baseline for your health and what you need to do in order to stay healthy.

3. Use manufacturer coupons

If you take a brand name medication, make sure you check the manufacturer’s website for offers to reduce your cost with insurance.

You can still use these manufacturer coupons on your medications while in the deductible period. Even better, the total cost of your prescription will go towards your deductible in most cases—not your final out of pocket cost.

Tip: Use GoodRx to determine which pharmacy in your area that has the lowest cost. Especially if you haven’t hit your deductible yet, starting with a lower cash price at the pharmacy will get you the most bang for your buck when pairing it with a manufacturer’s coupon. Keep in mind though, you can’t combine manufacturer coupons with GoodRx discounts.

Important: Make sure to read the fine print on manufacturer’s coupons to make sure you qualify, and how much you’ll be able to save. For example, most offers are not available if you have Medicare or Medicaid prescription insurance.

4. Ask your doctor if there are less expensive alternatives that could work for you

If you’re taking an expensive brand medication, ask your pharmacist or doctor if a less expensive alternative exitsts. A similar generic medication can offer a huge cost savings for you—especially when you are still trying to make it through your deductible.

The savings aren’t just for generic alternatives. If you take a brand name combination medication (a drug with two or more active ingredients), you can sometimes find savings by taking two separate drugs. Many expensive acne creams, for example, offer convenience by combining two inexpensive generics.

Diabetics may also have a good cheaper alternative when it comes to insulin. If you use Novolin N, Novolin R, or Novolin 70/30, you may want to consider Walmart’s brand ReliOn insulins. They are comparable to the Novolin products, and at about $25 per vial, can offer huge savings.

If you’re a diabetic and the cost of your test strips during the deductible period is breaking the bank consider using a generic store brand glucose monitor from stores like CVS or Walmart. These generic store brand glucose monitors cost around $15.00 and the strips cost around $20.00 for a box of 100-count strips. This can also offer big savings, especially when glucose monitors like OneTouch charge around $100.00 or more for a box of 100 test strips.

The downside: Purchasing ReliOn insulin or a generic machine and test strips at Walmart won’t count towards your deductible. However, it will still leave more money in your pocket for other necessities.

5. Take advantage of your options once you meet your deductible

Once you meet your deductible, there are still plenty of ways you can save even more. For example—make sure to fill your prescriptions on a regular basis. This can be a big help, especially for expensive products like diabetes test strips. Even if you don’t use the full amount you fill every month, you will have them for the future.

You can also check to see if your employer offers any programs like medication therapy management (MTM), disease state management, dietician services, weight loss, or stress management programs to help you manage your current conditions at low or no cost to you.

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