In a survey released in early 2018, only 37% of Americans said they would be able to pay for an unexpected $500-$1000 cost. 63% of respondents said they would need to resort to measures such as cutting back other spending, using a credit card, or borrowing money from friends or family in the event of a costly emergency. We have been writing for years on our position that people should not have to decide between health care or groceries or skipping prescriptions. There are ways to build a health spending plan to ensure you are financially able to pay for medical expenses, no matter when they arise.

There are a number of savings options available that can help make the most of income. Health savings accounts (HSAs) or Flexible spending accounts (FSAs) deposits are often made pre-tax through the employer, and can be spent tax-free on qualified medical expenses. FSAs and HSAs both allow people to save money in tax-advantage accounts, but there are key differences:

FSAs can be used with any type or no insurance; HSAs can only be used/contributed to in conjunction with a high-deductible health plan.

Money in FSAs not

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Last summer the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies (ASOP Global) launched a campaign to raise awareness of counterfeit drugs from foreign online pharmacies.  This year, they have drafted a letter to the U.S. Congress to encourage them to oppose proposals that allow American consumers to buy Health Canada-approved medication from “legitimate” Canadian online pharmacies.

Buying medications from other countries has been an idea proposed to combat the high cost of prescriptions in the United States. Starting in 1999 politicians began filling buses with senior constituents and driving them to Canada, starting with then-Representative Bernie Sanders from Vermont. The seniors would travel with prescriptions written by American doctors; once in Canada, a Canadian doctor would rewrite the prescription and then have it filled at a Canadian pharmacy at a fraction of the U.S. cost. One woman’s breast cancer drug, which cost $110 for a one-month supply in Maine, could be bought in Canada for only $12.

Since the advent of the internet, the process to get prescriptions from across the Canadian border has become seemingly easier but

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In previous blog posts, we have explored the risks of online pharmacies and the increased risks faced by the elderly. This is largely related to Medicare/Medicaid and the growing number of people who are covered by it. Ten thousand Americans turn 65 every day, and not every treatment is covered by Medicare. This can lead senior Americans to look elsewhere for affordable medications, including potentially fraudulent online pharmacies.

This year, the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies (ASOP) is launching a campaign to raise awareness. A recent review of over 11,000 websites selling prescription medications online to US consumers found nearly 96% noncompliant with US laws and as much as 50% of the medicines sold online are fake. Counterfeit medicines contain little to no active ingredients and could contain dangerous poisons including floor wax, mercury, concrete, chalk, boric acid, road tar, paint or anti-freeze. Interpol estimates that counterfeit drugs are responsible for up to a million annual deaths worldwide.

Lower prices and the convenience of online shopping are major factors driving consumers to the internet for their medications,

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We are almost to 2016, and the high costs of prescriptions are still a huge problem for millions of Americans.  Despite laws like the Affordable Care Act (ACA), drug prices continue to vary and rise in ways that are often too much for patients to navigate.  A recent poll found that a third of those currently taking a medication experienced a spike in price in the past year. Consumer Reports was able to uncover a lot of information with a national price scan of five common generic drugs. With their findings in mind, there are tips one can follow to get lower prices and better deals on needed medication.

=&0=&  Even pharmacies within a few miles of each other can vary widely in price, sometimes by hundreds of dollars.  Furthermore, chain drugstores consistently charged the most among the medications and locations polled. Independent and local mom-and-pop pharmacies were found to have bargains on prescriptions, and sometimes are flexible to match or beat competitor prices. =&1=&  Many chain stores offer common generics at prices as low as $4-$15 for a 30- to 90- day supply when people pay out of pocket.  NeedyMeds has a database of locations and medications available through these discount programs. Sometimes pharmacists will insist you must use your health insurance, even it the price is higher than the cash price or the price with the NeedyMeds drug discount card. They are wrong – you never have to use your health insurance if you can get a better price not using it. =&2=&  For drugs you will be taking long term, getting enough medicine to last three months as opposed to one can be cheaper.  We mentioned the discount programs available above, and for those using insurance it would equate to only one copay instead of three. =&3=&  It may seem awkward or something better used at a car dealership, but Consumer Reports found that pharmacists either have some flexibility when asked or are able to find a coupon or card that can bring down the price, or offer one of the discount programs they may have available for those not using insurance. =&4=& Read more

Rogue Internet drug sellers are widespread and the problem is growing.  The criminals that operate these illegal websites make millions of dollars each month peddling counterfeit and otherwise illegitimate medicine to unsuspecting patients. As a result, patients are just a click away from dangerous or even deadly consequences.

As the holiday season draws near, beware of what you buy online. “Too good to be true” prices and claims of legitimacy are usually ploys to lure you to buy. And when you do, you give your personal and financial information (credit cards, home address, etc.) to criminals, and put your health in their hands.

A Real Patient’s Story

According to the Partnership for Safe Medicines, Rachael Jablo, a San Francisco resident, reported her doctor at the University of California-San Francisco suggested she visit an online “Canadian pharmacy” to save money on an antibiotic that costs $1,000 for a two week cycle. Rachael represents just one patient who was misled. This particular online rogue drug seller was not a licensed pharmacy and it was operating from Canada.  It shipped medications

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