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Wellness Rx: Help Employees Spend Less on Prescriptions

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A recent national survey revealed that for the first time, more than half of Americans are taking medications for chronic conditions, and that’s adding to the rising health care tab employees—and employers—must pay.

The study, performed by Medco Health Systems, shows that 51% of Americans are taking at least one prescription drug to treat a chronic condition.

At the same time, the cost of prescription drug coverage is growing even faster than spending on health care coverage. Prescription drug costs account for a huge chunk of employer-provided health care insurance premiums. To deal with premium increases, you’re probably passing on more of those costs to employees in the form of higher co-pays and deductibles.

Don’t run the risk that your workers won’t fill needed prescriptions because they can’t afford to. They’ll stay healthier and save money if you teach them how to hunt for bargains on prescribed drugs, just as they do for clothes and groceries.

Here are five ways you can help employees spend less on prescription drugs:

1. Require employees to attend enrollment meetings, where you can teach them how much medicine costs and what they can do to pay less in deductibles and co-pays.

2. Encourage employees to ask for generic alternatives to brand-name medicines. Educate them about the safety and lower cost of generics compared with brand-name drugs.

3. Identify stores in your area that sell generic medicines for the lowest price. Wal-Mart, Costco and Target, for example, sell some generics for as little as $4 in some states—less than most employees’ co-pays. Other pharmacies may match a discounter’s price if employees ask.

4. Identify web sites that help consumers comparison-shop pharmacies for the best prices. Many states sponsor such sites. For example, Florida has a prescription drug web site (www.myfloridarx.com) that shows pharmacy prices for the 100 most commonly prescribed medicines in the state.

Example: The price for 30 5-milligram Crestor tablets ranges from $103.50 to $176 among pharmacies in the Miami metropolitan area.

5. Advise employees to ask their doctors for samples of prescribed drugs so they don’t have to pay for as many pills.

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