Even With Insurance, You Might Be Overpaying for Prescriptions

The whole point of health insurance (at least in theory) is to keep health care costs manageable. You may have less exposure to medical debt, but that doesn't mean your plan is totally on your side. In fact, your insurer might be charging you more than your prescriptions actually cost.

That's according to a study just released in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Researchers found that co-pays for more than 1 in 4 generic prescriptions actually exceed the cost of the drug itself. The same was true for brand-name drugs about 6 percent of the time.

This data was collected in 2013, so it is possible that those ratios have changed in one direction or another. Overall, the average overpayment was nearly $8; in 17 percent of overpayments, it exceeded $10. In the end, insurers raked in an extra $135 million, thanks to these relatively small charges.

As a consumer and a patient, you have every right to ask your pharmacist whether your prescription would be cheaper out of pocket than paid through insurance. Some pharmacists, unfortunately, are under something called a gag clause. They're not legal in every state, but they could prevent pharmacists from volunteering information about the cost of your prescription.

While we've been trained by the American medical system to think of health care as inherently bank-breaking, you may be surprised by how affordable out-of-pocket prescriptions can be. Use the app and website GoodRx to find the lowest prices on the medicines you need to get back or stay on your feet.