Let’s Talk About Money

Dr. Sharon Orrange
Dr. Orrange is an Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine in the Division of Geriatric, Hospitalist and General Internal Medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.
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I’ll bet you don’t hear a doctor say that very often.

I am an adult medicine doctor who treats thousands of patients every year. Doctors have traditionally been trained to do what’s best for the patient, regardless of cost. And we do just that—our primary goal is to achieve the best possible outcomes for the patients we treat.

However, the American health care system has changed tremendously over the last decade. We all know that health care costs are going up but perhaps the more important fact is that the patient’s share of that cost is rising even faster. I see the toll this takes on my patients every day. Through co-pays, networks, deductibles, formularies and other means (and that’s assuming you even have insurance), you are paying for a greater portion of the health care choices that you, your insurance company, your employer and your doctor make.

This is why it’s a bad idea when doctors and patients don’t talk about money.

Our health care system has become increasingly confusing and complicated, and patients have no idea what an office visit, procedure, lab test or prescription will cost. Given that you’re paying a larger and larger part of the bill, you’d think you’d be entitled to know what your out-of-pocket is going to be. Can you imagine going to a restaurant and being handed a menu without prices, or buying a new car without a clue as to what the price was?

My blog will focus an area of healthcare that causes most of the financial strain for my patients: the $310 billion that Americans spend each year on more than 4 billion prescriptions. By bringing transparency to this market you and your doctor can make smarter decisions about what prescription drugs to take and where you should be filling those prescriptions.

If I write you a prescription today, you go to the most convenient pharmacy and pay whatever the pharmacist tells you to pay. You may not know: how much different pharmacies charge for that drug (secret tip: pharmacy prices can be wildly different!), or what the prescription will actually cost you. More than 40% of Americans struggle to afford their medications.

The next few years, fortunately, may bring good news. The cost of prescriptions is actually decreasing for most people. Many popular brand-name drugs have gone (or will soon go) generic which can mean savings of up to 90%. Generic prescriptions will soon make up as much as 90% of the 4 billion prescriptions filled annually in the US, and generic drugs can cost as little as a penny a pill.

With this blog, I hope to help you become a smarter prescription drug consumer, so that you can work with your doctor to choose prescription drugs that will make you better while saving you money. I’ll be sharing new study results, new medications, new generic options, cheaper equivalents to popular brand name drugs, and I’ll answer common questions I am asked about in my practice. As an Associate Professor of Medicine at the Keck-USC School of Medicine with a busy private practice and hospitalist job, I hope to shed light on affordable options for the treatment of common medical conditions.

Finally, I am not compensated by pharmaceutical companies, pharmacies or other advertisers for the opinions I’ll express in this blog.

Let’s get started—ask me a question!

Dr O.

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