It’s 2022, and although the healthcare system in the United States still falls short of being affordable for everyone, we are making headway. After the pandemic, online visits and telehealth services exploded to meet the new demand for contactless medical visits, and many states even changed legislation to pave the way for allowing this type of appointment.
Today, thanks to telemedicine, patients have greater access to doctors across the entire nation. Greater choice means greater competition, which drives prices down. And these telemedicine providers make things a little easier by offering easy-to-understand payment options for patients who don’t carry insurance, those with high-deductible plans, or whose insurance isn’t in-network. Many telemedicine providers offer a flat rate fee for appointments. For example, My Virtual Physician currently offers online appointments for $49.99 per visit for self-paying patients.
Telemedicine isn’t the only area of healthcare that’s growing toward the virtual market. Pharmacies are making their move into the digital space, too. And we can expect the same effect from the increased competition: lower drug prices.
Today, if you’re uninsured—or just want to pay for your medications without involving a health insurance company, that option is available, and it can even be affordable. In this article, we’ll cover options for self-paying patients to find affordable prescription medications.
You may think that paying outright for your prescription drugs, without insurance, would be completely unaffordable. But that’s not always the case. The price is often a mystery, though, unless you do your research before you tell your doctor which pharmacy to send your prescription to. That’s hard to do if you don’t know which medication your doctor will prescribe before your appointment.
In this blog, we’ll give you three options to consider to get the best price on your prescription medication without insurance.
First, let’s talk about prescription discount cards. You may have come across these through junk mail flyers, your employer handing them out, or even at the pharmacy counter. These cards are free to obtain and may or may not save you money on certain prescriptions. Some of these cards claim to save you up to 80% off the retail price of certain drugs.
An example of a company that offers these cards is Discount Drug Network. They offer savings by working with a network of pharmacies and stores that agree to lower drug prices when the card is used.
There is usually a marketing company behind these prescription discount cards. These marketers get access to data about when and where certain medications are purchased when you use their discount card.
Another thing to be aware of if your only plan for saving on prescriptions is a discount card is that it’s a case of trial and error; they don’t work for all medications, and there is a chance that the price of your medication may still be unaffected after scanning your discount card.
Discount cards also sometimes are only valid for a certain period or a certain number of uses. They also cannot be combined with insurance, so you can either use insurance or the discount card, but typically not both. These cards are not accepted at all pharmacies, and you should read the fine print so that you understand what you’re agreeing to by using them.
Our next option to consider for self-pay patients to save on medications is technically a type of prescription discount card, but with a twist. It’s a digital version of a prescription discount card: Good Rx.
If you have an idea of which medication you think your doctor will prescribe, then you can look it up on Good Rx’s website. You could download and use the Good Rx mobile app to look up the medication while you’re still at your doctor’s appointment.
The Good Rx app and website give you the tools to compare prices of specific medications at your local pharmacies. For example, when we look up Amoxicillin, which is used for treating bacterial infections, the current search results show the price of the drug from Walgreens, CVS, Walmart, Meijer, Costco, Target, and Kroger. In this case, the price ranged from free to just over $10 for a bottle of 21 capsules.
To get the deal, GoodRx requires you to show the pharmacy a coupon to get the discounted price. Good Rx also provided three options to have the prescription delivered from an online pharmacy. The choices were DiRx, GoodRx Home Delivery, and HealthWarehouse, each with similar pricing to the local options.
Because GoodRx is technically a discount card, that means that you cannot use it together with insurance. So if you have health insurance, you’ll need to check if your co-pay price is lower than the GoodRx price in order to make sure you’re actually saving money by using the GoodRx in lieu of your insurance.
Another thing to know about GoodRx is that there is a paid membership option called GoodRx Gold. For an additional monthly subscription charge (currently $9.99/month), members can receive even further discounts on prescriptions and virtual doctor visits. If you have costly medications that need refilling each month, this option may be with the additional cost for some self-paying patients.
Keep in mind that GoodRx has to make money somehow—by showing you ads, providing premium services, and through referral fees for businesses. Since they are a for-profit business, that means that it’s possible that they steer you toward certain venues for healthcare visits and to purchase your medications.
Reviews online also show that some users experienced poor customer service when trying to address questions or problems with their discounts, app, or doctor visits.
A new option opened in 2022 for self-paying patients to get affordable prescription medications; it’s known as Mark Cuban’s pharmacy or Cost Plus Drug Company. Unlike GoodRx or prescription discount programs, which just save you money on another pharmacy’s medications by making deals with suppliers, Mark Cuban’s Cost Plus Drug Co. is a true pharmacy itself. They negotiate directly with drug manufacturers and sell directly to consumers through employer-sponsored programs without excessive markups.
Here’s how Cost Plus Drug figures its drug prices:
Mark Cuban’s pharmacy is growing, making more deals with drug manufacturers, and working on building a manufacturing facility so that they can begin making the medications themselves to further cut down on the end user’s cost.
One example of extreme savings that you can get from Mark Cuban’s pharmacy is for the drug called Imatinib. The list price without insurance at most pharmacies is around $2,000. With insurance, it’s usually around $600. With GoodRx, the price varies from around $100 to $800. With Cost Plus Drugs, it sells for $14.40. See drug availability and pricing here.
Mark Cuban’s company is a disrupter fighting an uphill battle against the way things have been done for decades, with third parties getting big kickbacks from drug prices. That means that Cost Plus pharmacy’s current selection of drugs is limited to only the direct manufacturers that agree to work with them. Some companies are hesitant to participate for fear that they may lose their other partnerships in the business. Currently, their selection is nearing 1,000 generic medications and growing.
Like the other options mentioned above, if you do have insurance, it won’t do you any good at Mark Cuban’s pharmacy. Because the entire goal is to cut out the middlemen, only cash-paying customers can receive the steep drug discounts that Cost Plus Drugs offers.
Currently, Cost Plus Drugs pharmacy is only available online, and medications must be shipped. There are no physical stores that you can drive to in order to receive your medications from mark Cuban’s pharmacy.
To use Mark Cuban’s Cost Plus Drugs Pharmacy, first you’ll need to create an account. From there, it’s a three-step process. First, you’ll need to confirm whether your prescribed medication is available on their website, then your doctor will need to send your prescription directly to this pharmacy so that it can finally be mailed to your home.
Another pharmacy option for self-pay patients is Marley Drug, located out of North Carolina. This company began as a mom-and-pop local pharmacy and has grown to provide nationwide online prescriptions.
Marley Drug received national attention by offering big discounts on long-term prescriptions. You can get major price cuts plus free shipping by asking for a half or full-year supply of your regular prescription medications. Here’s the standard pricing for Marley Drug’s wholesale list:
For $37.00, you can receive a six-month supply—or for $70, you can get a full year of medications that are on their current wholesale price list of over 100 different drugs. To get prescriptions from Marley Drug, you’ll need to set up an online account, search for your medication, and have your doctor send over the prescription as they normally would to any pharmacy (e-scribe, fax, or call).
It’s not just their long-term prescriptions that are priced to sell at this pharmacy. Similarly to Mark Cuban’s pharmacy, Marley Drug prices all of its generic medications with minimal markup as well. They have more availability than Mark Cuban’s pharmacy of non-generic medications as well; however, you may need to call to verify before sending your prescription over.
There are a few drawbacks to choosing Marley Drug as your regular pharmacy. For one, unless you live near Winston-Salem, North Carolina, your only option to receive medications is through the mail. That means you won’t be able to walk in to get your medications the same day, and you’ll have to wait a couple of days for shipping unless you’re a local.
At Marley Drug, you won’t be able to get handwritten prescriptions filled without mailing the physical copy in for verification since no photos or faxes of handwritten prescriptions are allowed. If you need a prescription filled for a Valium, Ritalin, or biologic medication, you’ll also need to choose a different pharmacy because Marley Drugs cannot ship controlled substances or refrigerated medicines at this time.
Like the other options listed, Marley Drug keeps the cost down by cutting out the middlemen. That’s why you cannot use insurance with Marley Drug when choosing the mail-order
option. It can also require more work to find information about drugs that are available but not listed on the pharmacy’s website.
Paying for prescription medications out of pocket is not impossible. With new companies emerging and new technology that allows cutting out the middlemen—today, you have a lot more options to get affordable meds.
Let’s compare the options we have presented:
|Option||Price to enroll in savings||Drug Availability||Savings||Ease of Finding Pricing||How to Get Prescriptions|
|Prescription Discount Card||Free||Usually Name-Brand||Varies, you don’t know until you arrive at the pharmacy||Difficult||In-person or mailed|
Premium Gold option for $9.99/individual or $19.99/family
|Both Name-Brand and Generic, wide selection||Varies depending on location but pricing is transparent online||Easy (online or app)||In-person or mailed|
|Mark Cuban’s Pharmacy (Cost Plus Drugs)||Free||Limited selection
|Only pay 15% above cost||Easy (online)||Mail-only|
|Marley Drugs||Free||Discounted items are limited to the wholesale list and generics but Name-brands are available||Flat pricing rate for drugs on wholesale list from $15 for a one-month supply||Easy for drugs on wholesale list, more difficult for other medications||Mail-only unless local
1 Location in Winston-Salem, NC
Here are some key takeaways:
Regardless of which option you choose, My Virtual Physician makes it our mission to help patients find affordable healthcare solutions, and that includes affordable prescriptions. We know that if a medication is unaffordable, it decreases the likelihood of patients going through with the purchase and delays their well-being.
If your prescription is running low and you’re looking for new ways to afford your medication, reach out to My Virtual Physician today to get established as a patient so that we can help you choose the right pharmacy to get the best deal on prescriptions without insurance.