Pay less for heart drugs without using insurance?

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Do you take generic drugs to lower your blood pressure or cholesterol? You may save money by paying out of pocket at Walmart instead of a paying a Medicare prescription copay, according to an analysis in the July 24 Annals of Internal Medicine.

Walmart (and a number of other large chain stores) offer generic drug discount plans; they sell 30-day supplies of popular generic drugs for $4.

Researchers compared the cost to patients for some common generic drugs on these discount plans and more than 2,100 Medicare prescription drug plans (about 70% of them Medicare Advantage plans). The study focused on 27 generic drugs used to treat seven cardiovascular-related problems: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease, heart failure, atrial fibrillation, and stroke.

About 20% of Medicare plans required people to spend more in copays than if they bought the drugs without using insurance at Walmart. Although the laws are in flux, some states prohibit pharmacists from telling people if a drug would be cheaper if they paid for it out of pocket instead of with insurance (the so-called gag rule). So it's up to you to find the best drug prices.

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