Prescription Discounts and the Healthcare System
We’re a site that provides you with coupons on prescription and OTC medications. And there’s no doubt about the fact that these coupons will save you money when you bring them with you to the pharmacy. But how do they relate to the healthcare industry at large? And how exactly do they work? Who pays for these discounts? Let’s take a couple of minutes to learn a little about something that can make such a big impact on our lives.
From the consumer (that’s you) standpoint, the process is simple: you need a purchase a medication, and if it’s a name-brand prescription med, chances are it’s a little pricey. You want to save, so using a service like The Coupon Doc, you find a discount for that medication. You take the coupon with you to the pharmacy, where it takes the appropriate amount off your bill, or co-pay. But the process doesn’t end there. Let’s say you just saved $10 on your Lipitor prescription refill - who’s covering that cost? Interestingly, it’s not the pharmacy that you go to. As soon as the pharmacy gives you that discount on the medication, they immediately bill the drug manufacturer for that same amount. So to continue along with the example of Lipitor, when you redeem the coupon for Lipitor, your local pharmacy bills Lipitor’s manufacturer, Pfizer, for that amount. As you can see, coupons are really an indirect way for the drug manufacturer’s to promote their products to you, and they’re willing to take a significant hit on their profit just to get you to take their medication over competitors and generic equivalents.
Who else is involved? That’s right, your insurer. Your insurer actually prefers that instead of using these coupons, which make what is normally an expensive name-brand medication much more affordable, you take generic equivalents. Why? Because even if you’re getting a coupon for that Lipitor refill, your insurer does not. There’s still a “hidden” copay for that medication that your insurer covers. That’s why there’s been a lot of criticism around coupons because many feel that they raise the overall costs of the healthcare system. Insurers, in turn, are always feeling the pressure to increase the premiums they charge for healthcare plans due to their rising costs, and this is just another instance of that pressure increasing.
So what do you think? As consumers, do you care that the coupons you use could potentially encourage needless spend for insurers on more expensive medications? Or are you just glad to have more money in your wallet? Leave your comments below!