Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Rx Ping-Pong Basics: 101

Basically, Rx Ping-Pong just means that you don't do all your business with ONE pharmacy for your prescription medications and supplies.

You transfer some or all of your business from your favorite pharmacy to your second-favorite pharmacy (or one that is flexible about accepting coupons -- no limit on how many you can use that day and/or willing to accept competitors' coupons) when there are occasionally coupons available that provide you an incentive (gift card, etc.) to TRANSFER a prescription or bring them a NEW one.

And, later, you transfer them back. In each move, you may have earned $10 to $30 PER prescription in free groceries or free/discounted gas or free gift cards. This might help you better afford the ever-increasing price of your prescription medications (or the quickly-rising costs of co-pays on most health insurance plans).


DISCLAIMER: This may not be for you!

If your answer to any of these questions is "Yes," then do NOT try to play Rx Ping-Pong:

  • Are you OK with the amount of money you are spending per year on co-pays for your prescriptions?

  • Do you have frequent changes to your prescription medications?

  • Would it bother you terribly if one of the grocery stores or pharmacies you currently do business with BANNED you from ever entering their store again (for using too many coupons; or transferring prescriptions too often; or for asking questions about their policies regarding accepting coupons -- theirs or their competitors')? YES, Kroger did this to one person (me) and has banned many people from ever being able to use pharmacy coupons again because they've hit some arbitrary unadvertised "lifetime limit."

  • Would it bother you if your current pharmacist and her/his staff gave you dirty looks every time you entered the store because they were afraid you were bringing them another list of things to transfer back by phone from their competitor (that you just took there last month or the prior month) ... and that you'll probably be using coupons to get something out of their store (as advertised)?

If you're sure you still want to try this out,
here's how it works in its most simple explanation ...

But first, read this SAFETY TIP about choosing and using a PRIMARY pharmacy for all new medications or those only occasionally prescribed for acute problems.

Also: Make sure you take to each pharmacy a list of ALL medications (including over-the-counter stuff and vitamins and supplements). One may spot an interaction problem another overlooked.


In a simple "getting started" mode, you might take a few of your prescriptions to a SECOND pharmacy when there are coupons that offer a gift card (of $10 to $30 or so) or perhaps a discounted or FREE tank of gas (with 3 or more prescription transfers). Choose two pharmacies you like that are convenient to you -- if you're already shopping at Giant Eagle (where you get your Rx and groceries) and Target (where you get lots of other stuff), try transferring a few prescriptions to Target when a coupon appears in their Sunday sales flyer (available in the Sunday newspaper ... or at the front counter by request). Similarly, if you get your groceries at Kroger and your drugs at CVS or Walgreen's, try transferring some prescriptions to Kroger (or Giant Eagle) -- both of which accept competitors' coupons (or at least advertise that).

When there are no coupons offered in your market, you simply get refills as usual (or take them back to your favorite pharmacy the next month). And if it's just $10, maybe don't bother ... or just transfer one or two.

(or start your first/second Rx Ping-Pong attempts):

You need to learn the "coupon policies" of your pharmacy (whether it's a stand-alone pharmacy or one inside a grocery (such as Giant Eagle or Kroger) or other large retailer (such as Meijers or Wal-Mart or Target). Do they have a LIMIT on the number of coupons per day they accept (be clear that you only want to use ONE coupon PER prescription -- at times 3 coupons for 3 prescriptions perhaps)? Do they offer coupons or rebates? Where do these appear (sales flyer in newspaper, sales flyer in store, and/or full-page ads in newspaper, etc.)? Do they accept competitors' coupons? Are there additional limitations on accepting those?

Of course, in asking those questions, you might make them uncomfortable ... and they might use that as an excuse later when they don't want to admit they banned you simply for using "too many coupons" (or more than they were comfortable with ... or in a way they were not comfortable with).

More advanced lessons to come ...

And some advice on where to go ...

... and where NOT to go.

Please share your experiences and insights through a COMMENT added to this Blog.


1 comment:

Unknown said...

Giant Eagle is the coolest about taking coupons! They take competitors' coupons and don't limit you to one per customer per day or any of that nonsense (the way Kroger started doing about 2 years ago -- despite those signs and ads they have that say, "We Gladly Accept All Competitors Coupons.")

My best experiences have been with Giant Eagle pharmacists and their staff ... Target would be my second best experience. CVS, OK.

Worst: Meijer, Wal-Mart, and Kroger.

Columbus, OH