“My Momma Told Me, You Better Shop Around.“
–Captain & Tennille
While Captain and Tennille were talking about finding a partner in this wildly popular 1976 hit song, it is also good advice for drugs.
Why is it we shop around for cars but not doctors? For houses but not lab tests? For kid’s toy but not medicine? I have found by asking a few questions and making some calls, one can save a lot of money in medical expenses.
For much of Africa and parts of South America, we need to protect ourselves from the malaria-carrying mosquito. To do so, we will take a 100-day supply of atovaquone/proguanil (a.k.a., Malarone) which comes to 300 pills for the four of us. Kaiser, our primary medical provider, quoted $2.90/pill (or $870 for the family). So, I shopped around.
Blink Health, in a TV commercial, says they “offer low prices” for medicine but came in at $4.80/pill ($1,440). Health Warehouse, an online retailer, was slightly lower than Kaiser at $2.85 pill ($855). I figured Costco would be the lowest but was surprised they were $5.02/pill ($1,506). The highest, however, was Walgreens at $9.53/pill ($2,859). Shocked, I made one last call to Walmart and, with an online coupon, could get our medicine for $1.86/pill ($558). I was comparing the same generic pill across all stores with prices ranging from $558 to $2,859.
It is not just for prescriptions. When researching dentists, I found doctors charge wildly different prices for the same procedure. Or, even lab tests. Recently Audrey needed an MRI and Kaiser quoted us $2,500. Surprised, I suggested she call a local lab specializing in MRI’s and it cost $550. Same test.
When I have worked for large corporations and had premium health-care plans covering everything for a small co-pay of $10, I didn’t think much about cost. Why? Because someone else was paying for it. With my high-deductible plan, I think about it more.
There are a variety of reasons for choosing a medical practitioner with price being just one. Just as price varies, service also varies. However, when the price of the exact same pill differs by over 400%, the decision becomes easy.
Now if I can only figure out what Captain & Tennille meant with “Muskrat Love.”