Buying prescription medication when you’re uninsured can be stressful and expensive. But some strategies can help you to save money. Some of the resources available include national, state, and disease-specific drug assistance programs, mail order or bulk discounts, and retailer savings programs. However, if you’re eligible for health insurance, getting coverage is the best way to save money on all healthcare costs, including prescription medication.
Do I Need Insurance to Get a Prescription?
No, you don’t need to have health insurance in order to get prescription medication. However, the cost of medications will most likely be higher if you’re uninsured. Thankfully, there are some resources available that can help you to save money when buying prescription medication without insurance.
Tips for Saving Money on Prescriptions Without Insurance
Buying prescription medication without insurance can be expensive if you don’t know the available resources. Below are some strategies that can help to lower the cost of buying prescription medication without insurance.
Retailer savings programs
Several large retailers, including pharmacy chains like Walgreens or CVS, offer savings programs for members. If you have a large retailer or pharmacy near you, contact them to learn whether or not they offer savings programs for prescription medication.
Consider using generic medications
Choosing generic medication over a brand-name version is an excellent way to cut down on prescription medication costs. Generic medications are equal to their brand-name counterparts in strength, quality, effectiveness, and safety. But they don’t have to repeat the same clinical trials already done for the brand-name versions, which is why they’re often significantly lower in price.
Mail order for bulk discounts
When ordering prescription medication through the mail, there may be a discount price for bulk orders. For example, if you order a three or six-month supply at once, you pay less overall than if you were to buy one month’s supply at a time.
Apply for national or disease-specific drug assistance programs
National and disease-specific drug assistance programs can help you to secure free or low-cost medicines if you are uninsured or can’t afford your medicine. A list of some of the disease-specific drug assistance programs can be found here.
Apply for state drug assistance programs
Several states also offer drug assistance programs. In some cases, you must receive Medicare and have limited resources and income in order to qualify. Reach out to the Extra Help program for more information at 800-772-1213.
Try contacting the manufacturer
If none of the above methods work to save you money on prescription medication, try reaching out to the manufacturer of the specific medication you need to inquire about any discount or cost-reducing programs they may offer. Most of the newer, more expensive medications offer some type of discount, especially for the first year of use.
How to Get Medical Insurance
Saving money on prescription medication when you’re uninsured isn’t impossible, but finding insurance coverage can make it easier to save on all healthcare-related costs, including prescription drugs.
Medicaid provides free or low-cost medical benefits to those who are eligible. Eligibility requirements for Medicaid include:
- Adults with a low income
- Pregnant people
- People aged 65 and older
- People with disabilities
Eligibility requirements can vary from state to state. To see if you qualify, reach out to your state’s Medicaid office. In general, there are two ways to apply for Medicaid:
- Through your local state Medicaid agency (you must be a local resident)
- Fill out an application through the Health Insurance Marketplace
Medicare is a federal insurance program that helps eligible people gain access to healthcare. Those who may be eligible for Medicare include:
- People aged 65 or older
- People aged 65 and under who have certain disabilities
- People of any age with end-stage kidney failure that requires dialysis or a kidney transplant
There are four parts to Medicare:
- Part A: Hospital insurance
- Part B: Medical insurance.\
- Part C: Private insurance option for covering hospital and medical costs
- Part D: Prescription medications
To determine your Medicare eligibility and premium, you must visit the Medicare website at https://www.medicare.gov/eligibilitypremiumcalc. You can apply online or in person at your local Social Security office. The enrollment period for most people begins three months before you turn 65 and lasts for seven months. Coverage generally begins the month after you sign up.
Affordable Care Act marketplace
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) Health Insurance Marketplace is a resource for individuals, families, and small businesses to shop for and find affordable health insurance. You must reapply for coverage every year through the Marketplace’s website. The enrollment period for the year ahead usually begins in November and runs through January 15th of the year in question. To learn if you qualify, visit this page.
Young adult coverage
Most young adults under the age of 26 can be added to their parent’s healthcare plan, as long as their parents’ insurance covers dependents. In most cases, a young adult can join and stay on their parent’s plan until they turn 26 even if they get married, have or adopt a child, start or leave school, live out of their parent’s home, or aren’t claimed as a tax dependent. To see if you or your child qualify, check with the insurer. Young adults can often be added to their parent’s insurance plan during the Open Enrollment Period.
Student health insurance
Young adults under 30 may be able to get health insurance through their school. This can be an easy and affordable way to get basic coverage. If you’re unsure whether or not your school offers health insurance, contact them directly.
In 2019, an estimated 49.6% of American adults received health insurance through their employer. Many employers throughout the country offer healthcare plans as part of their comprehensive benefits package. This is one of the many ways employers can compete for and attract the best talent.
If you don’t currently receive healthcare through your employer, you can reach out to your human resources representative for more information. If healthcare coverage isn’t an option, you can look for other employment opportunities that offer healthcare coverage as an included employment benefit.
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Frequently Asked Questions
K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.
K Health has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.
Drug Assistance Programs. (2020).
Extra Help with Medicare Prescription Drug Plan Costs. (n.d.).
Health Insurance Coverage of the Total Population. (2019).
How to Apply for Medicaid and CHIP. (2022).
In school? Student health plans & other options. (n.d.).
Patient Assistance Programs. (n.d.).