What I Learned From My $2500 Prescription Mistake

Pay less for prescriptionsThose health insurance plans? Reading the fine print is a good idea.

Our plans recently changed at work, and I chose one with a $2500 deductible and a copay for prescriptions. So I was shocked when I went to refill my Adderall XR prescription and the pharmacy asked if I would prefer the $159 generic instead of the $225 brand name version. Uh, what happened to the $35 I used to pay for brand?

Turns out that prescription copay part doesn’t take effect until after I meet my deductible for the year. Whoops.

The hunt for a lower-priced prescription

Prescription prices can vary dramatically depending on where you get them, so it was time to hunt for a cheaper pharmacy. If you’re in a similar situation, what I learned could benefit you.

I made a bunch of calls to area pharmacies (CVS, Costco, Sam’s Club, Walgreens, Target, and Fry’s) and discovered that the price for the generic version of what I needed ranged from a low of $92.12 for 30 pills at a nearby Sam’s Club (if I had a Sam’s Plus or Business membership) to a high of $251.19 (at Fry’s.) Prices for the brand name ranged from $225ish (CVS) to $317.79 (Fry’s again.) Basically, they were all over the map.

Prices aren’t set in stone

The point? Don’t just assume that the price you’re paying for a prescription is “the” price. Prices can vary depending on where you buy from, location, and probably also from time to time. In fact, for lower priced prescriptions, sometimes you can pay less using cash than your copay might be if you go through insurance — especially if they happen to be available as $4 generic. You may also pay less for a 90-day supply, if it’s for something you need regularly.


Coupons are sometimes available too. I discovered the GoodRx site, which basically could have saved me a lot of calling around. The prices they estimated varied somewhat from what I found by calling the pharmacies directly, but were fairly close. They also provide coupons, which can make the prices lower. (Btw, this isn’t an ad for them, and I haven’t used their service beyond the search feature.) But I’ll definitely be using it again when I go to price my other prescription, and I may try out their coupons.

No membership necessary for the warehouse clubs

During my calls, I learned another interesting thing. In most states, you don’t have to be a member of Costco or Sam’s Club in order to use their pharmacies. You just need to tell the people at the door that you’re dropping off or picking up a prescription. Prices were higher without a membership than with one, but they were still less than many other places I checked. Costco also has a prescription program for members who are either not covered by insurance or whose insurance doesn’t cover their prescriptions.

All in all, it’s worth checking for a better deal on prescriptions. It’s also worth reading the fine print when choosing a health plan.


  • Your timing is perfect! I went to the dermatologist today and need a prescription filled. Normally, my medical insurance is pretty good, but it did not cover the particular medication. The pharmacy wanted $95 for something I usually pay $20. I thought I would shop it with Costco which Consumer Reports says has the lowest cost. Iused your link and I cn get it without my insurance for $9.99. Thanks,

  • Know where to look and take time doing it. Not too long though but you will surely find a coupon that can help you lower down the cost.

  • Thanks for this! To keep our insurance costs somewhat affordable, I end up having to change our policy provider every year it seems. Knowing how to keep our med costs low despite the different coverages is nice.

  • This is great information. I have a membership as Sam’s which is basically the same as Costco. I have been feeling like I am getting robbed on prescriptions lately but really didn’t think I had any options. I will check out Sams to see if they can get me some lower prices. I know my wifey started going to Walmart for her glasses and saved a lot of money. Guess you just have to be willing to take the time to research. Thanks!

    • Glad you found it helpful :)

      And sometimes all it takes is a phone call. Since you’re a Sam’s member, be sure you ask for the member price if you call, as it will likely be less than the nonmember price.

  • Anyone taking any type of maintenance medications should use their flexible spending account wherever possible. Use your debit card when paying for the prescriptions and save 1/3 or more off the cost depending upon your income and tax bracket.

  • Suzeeeeq2

    Always check the drug manufacturers websites to see if they have coupons. I have good insurance but I love to save even more! I have a prescriptions savings card for 1 medication and so that saves me 180/year. The other savings card saves me $240, my copay was brought down from $25 to $5/mth. And also my doc gives me samples. so that is savings of $25/mth. so that is another 300/yr savings. So that is a total of $720. I still get my scripts at local drug store and they also have a fill 10 and get $5 in store rewards!