Many people think of coupons and prescription discount cards as the same thing, but there are some key differences you should be aware of before you decide on a program to help you save. First, it’s important to understand what we mean when we talk about these terms.
Prescription Discount Cards
A prescription discount card is a savings card that usually comes from a third-party company, not your insurance provider or drug manufacturer. There are some nuances to how Rx discount cards work, but the main thing you need to know is that you show your card at the pharmacy and use it to get a cheaper cash price on your medications. That price may even be better than your insurance co-pay.
When we’re talking about coupons, it’s important to distinguish between manufacturer drug coupons and prescription discount coupons. Manufacturer coupons, also referred to as copay coupons or copay assistance programs, are issued by the pharmaceutical company that makes a particular brand name drug and can only be used on that brand of drug.
There are some disadvantages to drug manufacturer copay coupons. Generally speaking:
- They can only be used for a limited number of refills.
- Many of these coupons exclude people with Medicare, Medicaid or other government insurance.
- There are often generic medications that are significantly cheaper than the brand name versions.
- Most (not all) manufacturer coupons lower your out-of-pocket cost by a fixed amount. For example, the coupon might say, “save $15 on a 90-day supply of this drug.” This may not give you the best savings because the price of a drug will vary from one pharmacy to another.
- For more detailed info about how manufacturer drug coupons work, read our article titled, "What Are Drug Coupons, Why Do They Exist and How Do They Work?"
Prescription discount coupons are different from manufacturer copay coupons because they come from a third-party company, called a Pharmacy Benefit Manager (PBM), that negotiates lower rates directly with pharmacies. When using such a coupon, consumers should be aware that discount prices can change frequently. This means that every time you refill a prescription, you may have to get a new coupon because the price may have changed. Additionally, prescription discount coupons from a PBM cannot be used to reduce your insurance copay amount, unlike the copay assistance coupons from a manufacturer.
Differences Between Rx Discount Cards and Coupons
Discount drug cards (also referred to as Rx savings cards) have several key features that distinguish them from coupons.
- Cards have no refill limits.
- Cards have no expiration date.
- Any changes in the discounted prices (up or down) are automatically applied and passed along to the cardholder from one refill to the next.
Similar to coupons from a PBM, pharmacy discount cards can be used regardless of your insurance status or who provides the benefit. However, as is the case with PBM coupons, it's an 'either/or choice' on the part of the patient to use EITHER their insurance OR the savings card. In other words, an Rx savings card cannot be used in combination with an insurance copay when purchasing prescription medications. If you find that your Rx card provides a lower price than your insurance copay for a particular medication, you can use the card rather than your insurance when paying for that drug.
In short, prescription savings cards are NOT the same as coupons. There are some similarities, but a card is often the most convenient way to receive savings on your medication. If you would like to start paying less at the pharmacy, download the ScriptSave WellRx card or mobile app today!
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