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A Single Blunder - Tuesday, February 12, 2019
Because I need expensive medication every month and because I'm on a high-deductible healthcare plan, I always end up paying a lot in the first few months of the year as I rack up medical expenses towards meeting my deductible. These expenses are typically offset since I can reimburse myself from my HSA (which my company contributes to), but the idea is that I manage my own money with which to pay for my healthcare expenses until my deductible is met.

Last month, I got a call from a pharmacist at the pharmacy where my prescription is filed, informing me of a manufacturer's coupon that I should try using. This coupon should've saved me a lot of money on one of my prescriptions, but it ended up not working for some reason. So the pharmacist instead scanned a courtesy SingleCare card that they had on hand. This knocked the price of my medication down by $100, so I thought great, I'll sign up for my own card (available for free) and start using it from now on.

SingleCare is a company that negotiates prices with drug companies, sometimes at cheaper prices than what an insurance company might get. SingleCare is not insurance. The thing is, SingleCare is not a way of getting a discount in addition to billing insurance. Getting drugs through SingleCare replaces getting them through insurance. I did not know this at the time, and only found out this month when I returned to refill my prescription, tried to show my SingleCare card, and the pharmacist (a different one) informed me that using SingleCare would mean that my insurance wouldn't be billed and thus the cost of the drug wouldn't go towards meeting my deductible. And sure enough, when checking my insurance company's site, I found that they had no record of the drug I purchased last month. A $500 purchase that won't go towards my deductible.

I think SingleCare (and companies like it) might be a decent option for people who don't have insurance, but for those with a high-deductible healthcare plan, it's probably not a good way to go. But they don't seem to make it clear how the program works and what the pitfalls are, and so consumers, and sometimes even pharmacists, may be none the wiser.

Edit: I went back to the pharmacy and they were able to reverse the billing to SingleCare and bill my insurance instead. I actually went in because I noticed that this month, both of my medications were billed to some company called OptumRx instead of my insurance company, so my large bill this month did not go towards my deductible at all. No idea how that happened. The pharmacy was able to correct that and bill my insurance correctly. I guess the moral of the story is to know what you're getting into when trying to change things, and when paying out of pocket for medication, look at your receipt carefully!
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