Key Takeaways

  • Prescription co-payments often lead to significant out-of-pocket costs for older adults.

  • Several programs from the federal and state government, as well as drug manufacturers, may help you save money on prescriptions.

  • Find out how you can use an NCOA online tool free up money in your budget—from taxes to food to home utilities and more.

The average person with Medicare spends over $600 on prescriptions each year. If you have multiple chronic conditions, chances are you’re paying even more. Affording your medications can be expensive, but there are programs that can help you save money.

How to get help paying for your medications from the government

If you or a loved one has Medicare, the first benefit to consider is Part D Extra Help. This program from Social Security and Medicare helps save money on Part D drug plan premiums and co-payments at the pharmacy. To get Extra Help, you must have low income and resources. Learn more from Social Security.

Don’t qualify for Extra Help? Your state may also have savings programs. Currently, 20 states offer a State Prescription Assistance Program (SPAP) to people who meet certain age, disability, chronic condition, and/or income requirements. SPAPs may help pay your premiums, deductibles, or medication co-payments.

Explore your drug plan options

Sometimes you can save money on medications by shopping around for different Medicare coverage. From October 15 to December 7 each year is the Medicare's Annual Open Enrollment Period, which allows people with Medicare to join, switch, or leave Medicare Advantage and Part D plans.

Here are three ways you can find out what prescription coverage may suit your needs:

  • The Medicare Plan Finder is the official tool of to shop for drug and health plans.
  • Use NCOA's free educational tool, Age Well Planner, to learn about Medicare costs, take an assessment of your needs, and get personalized advice on next steps.
  • Contact your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP). SHIPs are federally funded to provide unbiased, one-on-one assistance to people with Medicare and their families. Find your local SHIP at or by calling 1-877-839-2675.

Learn about drug manufacturer discounts

You’ve probably seen commercials for medications on TV that end with, “If you have trouble affording your medication, Drug Company may be able to help.” That assistance comes from Patient Assistance Programs (PAPs), which are run by drug manufacturers to offer free or discounted brand-name medications to consumers. PAPs may be especially helpful to those who lack insurance coverage or have significant medication costs.

Most of the major manufacturers offer PAPs and related resources for people who take their medications. For example, Pfizer’s RxPathways program connects people to insurance support, co-pay assistance, and medicines for free or at a savings. Other PAPs are offered by Novo Nordisk, AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline, and several foundations that provide disease-specific assistance, such as for people with diabetes. (Note: Some of these programs may have limitations for people with other Medicare drug coverage.)

Discover drug charity programs

Several national charity programs exist that can help people with Medicare afford their medications. Many of these specifically focus on assisting people with chronic conditions and rare diseases. Get a list of programs and links to their eligibility criteria.

Find help all in one place

NCOA’s free, confidential tool can help you screen for all of the major PAPs, SPAPs, and Part D Extra Help. BenefitsCheckUp® also can identify other programs that may allow you to free up money in your budget—from taxes to food to home utilities and more.