April is National Stress Awareness Month

                                                                                      Olivia Keeley                                                                                         Winter Wellness Intern


Did you know that April is National Stress Awareness Month? Probably not, because we constantly try to ignore the mental and physical demands stress brings upon us. According to the American Psychological Association, a survey taken in 2017 reported 80% of respondents experiencing at least one symptom of stress in the past month. Stress happens to all of us. Sometimes it seems unavoidable and overbearing. Whether a stressful situation occurs at work, home, school, or on the roads we must learn ways to cope with it. It is always important to remember that taking time for yourself is essential for your mental and physical health. It’s healthy to relax, renew, and rejuvenate!

According to the American Heart Association, stress can lead to a lot of unwanted complications. Health troubles such as: heart disease and stroke, high blood pressure, weight gain, concentration and memory issues, sleep problems, depression, headaches, anxiety, and digestive complications are few of many health related issues that could take a toll on your body. Negative stress can prevent us from performing our best physically, mentally, and emotionally. Although no one lives a completely stress free life, we can still manage it throughout the week.

The American Heart Association provides healthy habits we can turn to in a stressful situation:

  • Stress-Busting Activities – Try doing activities that allow you to relax or avert your negative energy to something positive! Meditation, journaling, playing a favorite sport, taking a walk in nature, exercising, or listening to music are just a few activities you can attempt to limit your stress.
  • Positive Self-Talk – Rather than letting a stressful situation put you down, try shifting your thoughts from negative to positive by changing your mindset. Instead of saying, “Everything is going wrong” try switching that to “I can handle this one step at a time”. Or, instead of saying something like, “I can’t do this” try saying “I’ll do the best I can. I’ve got this”.
  • Give Up Bad Habits – Having too much alcohol, tobacco, or caffeine can increase blood pressure and heighten feelings of anxiety. Try cutting back on those unhealthy habits to reduce your stress.
  • Laugh Often – Laughter enhances your mood and helps you forget about things that may cause you to stress out. Listen to a funny podcast or put on a comedic movie. Tell jokes with friends and share laughter together!
  • Slow Down – Plan ahead and stay organized with a planner or desk calendar so you don’t have too much on your plate at once. Without having to rush to get things done, you will feel calmer and satisfied that you’re ahead of schedule.

When you take these small steps to manage your stress, you will feel more creative, more alive, and have time to appreciate small moments of happiness.  Furthermore, you will be able to recognize when you need to take time for yourself to be your healthiest version of you!

The Price You Pay At The Pharmacy Is Not An April Fool’s Joke

                                                                                  Adam King, CPhT, PRS
Pharmacy Savings Program Manager


You walk into the pharmacy, plunk down your insurance card thinking you just got the best possible price for you and your insurance on your generic medications, right?  Well not so fast!  If you want to really save money on your prescription, where you fill your prescription is just as important as which medication you take.

Let’s consider the cholesterol drug atorvastatin which is better known as Lipitor®.  These prices were actually paid by members of the same prescription drug plan for a 90-day supply.

If the first thing that strikes you is that the chain retail stores charged the highest price, then you are very observant.  When it comes to negotiating with insurance companies chain pharmacies with thousands of stores have the highest negotiating power with insurance companies.  They can often dictate what the insurance company reimburses them which explains the higher cost.

The second thing you will notice is that member 1 got the best deal which is free.  The advantage here is that the member did receive the medication at no cost to themselves and the employer.  The store in this case is using this medication as a “loss leader”, or a method to get you to the store hoping you will purchase other items.  While free is a great price, just remember the retailer is hoping you’ll reward their “generosity” by spending money with them elsewhere.  These pharmacies will also often have higher charges for other medications you might fill.

If you want to save money without strings attached independent pharmacies, regional grocery chains, and hospital outpatient clinics do not share the same negotiating power of the large chains.  Instead the insurance company can often dictate the maximum allowed price the pharmacy can charge the patient.  This is how they claim to save health plans money, and in truth they are half right.  If you use one of these pharmacies, ask them if it might be possible to get a lower cost on your medication by paying out of pocket rather than billing insurance for some of your medications.  You’d be surprised how many insurance companies charge abnormally high rates for low cost generics.  While most people think HIPAA is a privacy law, its regulations are also put in place that give you the right not to bill your insurance.

Member 6 got upset by the higher cost he was paying at a larger chain pharmacy and decided to do some price shopping and discovered that one of the big box warehouse club pharmacies had a discounted “cash” price of $20 for his medication.  Cash pricing refers to prices charged by providers without billing the prescription or service to the insurance company.  So rather than bill their insurance, member 6 paid out of pocket to save money.  While member 6 got a good deal on that medication, member 6 did not get the best deal.

There is one cautionary warning on member 6’s tactic.  Member 6 should now get all their medications at that pharmacy to avoid a potentially dangerous drug interaction as there is no central database that tracks every medication that is filled unless those medications are filled by a pharmacy and billed to an insurance plan.

Member 7 used a discount mail order pharmacy to fill their prescription again by doing some price shopping.  Online mail order pharmacies are convenient and often inexpensive just make sure you order your medication early to allow for the delivery time.  Be aware that if the pharmacy advertises drugs from Canada, that they may be sourcing those medications from third world countries that have very lax pharmaceutical regulations.  What you think may be your cholesterol medication may very well just be a sugar pill.

If you choose to have an online discount pharmacy fill your medication, make sure that you get a good deal on all your medications.  Also verify that the pharmacy is registered with your state board of pharmacy which oversees that the pharmacy is following state and federal regulations related to pharmacy practice and drug sourcing.  The website should also be registered with the Verified Pharmacy Program offered by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy.  Again, this pharmacy will not bill your insurance, so you should make sure that the pharmacy is aware of all the medications you take and that there is a pharmacist available to answer questions about your medication.

Last, it pays to have a patient advocate that is aware of all the tactics companies use to maximize their profits at your expense.  Health Plan Advocate offers a certified and licensed pharmacy technician that will help you, your company, and your colleagues save money.  If your employer does not offer this benefit, ask your human resource department to contact us about this valuable service.