32% of Americans with health insurance skimp on the drugs they need because of the cost

A patient speaking with a medical professional in an examination room.

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It’s a really scary thing.

Key points

  • Drug costs can be high even with insurance.
  • Skipping medication doses to save costs could have serious consequences.

The cost of medications can vary greatly depending on different factors. These include whether or not you have insurance and whether you are taking a generic pill versus a brand name drug.

If you have insurance and can use generic drugs, your costs might be reasonably manageable. It’s when you’re buying brand name drugs that your costs can start to skyrocket, even if you’re insured.

The cost of drugs has become so high that more and more people are skimping to save money. In a recent Policygenius survey, 32% of respondents with health insurance said the cost of a prescription kept them from taking the full prescribed dose.

But it is a potentially dangerous move. Not taking your medications as prescribed could make them ineffective or cause other problems. And so, if you’ve been tempted to skip meds, maybe it’s time to rethink your spending and work as hard as possible to allocate more money to healthcare costs.

Don’t put your health at risk

Maybe you live a very frugal life and have no expenses that you can cut to free up money for medication. But if there are non-essential expenses you’re currently paying for, it might be time to set different priorities.

It’s not unreasonable to pay $15 a month for a streaming service or spend $25 on the occasional takeout order. But if it’s between those expenses and being able to take the right medications, you have to cancel the former and use that money to cover the latter.

In the meantime, if you are able to start building a small fund for medical expenses, you may be able to avoid a situation where you even have to consider cutting your pills in half to cut costs. There are now different options for building a medical expense fund. You can put money in a regular savings account. Or you can fund a tax-efficient health account, such as a flexible spending account (FSA) or a health savings account (HSA).

With an FSA, you allocate pre-tax dollars for medical expenses, but you must use up your plan balance by the end of the year or risk losing money. With an HSA, your contributions never expire and you get the same tax relief on the money you invest in it.

You can also invest HSA funds that you don’t spend immediately, and the earnings in your account will be tax-free. Withdrawals are also tax-free when used for healthcare expenses.

Although you have more options and flexibility with an HSA compared to an FSA, to qualify for an HSA you must be enrolled in a high deductible health insurance plan. Not all plans meet this requirement and you may not want a plan with a high deductible, in which case you can fall back on an FSA.

Make saving for healthcare costs a priority

Playing around with your medication schedule could have serious consequences for your health. Rather than run that risk, do your best to put some money aside so you can take your prescriptions as your doctor has planned.

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