How to Get Your Prescriptions Refilled During COVID-19

What You Need to Know About Refilling Your Prescriptions During the Coronavirus Outbreak

In the weeks since the coronavirus began sweeping the globe, people have taken to buying everything from toilet paper to canned foods in bulk, necessarily or not. But many Americans are equally concerned about having ready and safe access to another necessity: prescription medications that are crucial to staying well, physically and mentally. As we navigate this new reality, it's natural to be fearful that you'll experience problems or delays when you need a refill. POPSUGAR spoke with two doctors about how to best manage this situation and ensure that you don't miss a single dose of your medications. Keep reading for answers to your most-asked questions.

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What's the Best Way to Reach My Doctor During the COVID-19 Outbreak?

As doctors work around the clock to treat patients with COVID-19, private practices and medical centers are receiving an extremely high volume of phone calls. Georgine Nanos, MD, MPH, CEO of Kind Health Group in California, told POPSUGAR that it's best to communicate with your doctor via email or through an online patient portal if you can. "It keeps the phones from being overwhelmed and creates a record of your communication for future reference," Dr. Nanos said.

Coral Matus, MD, assistant professor of family medicine at the University of Toledo College of Medicine and Life Science, also uses a clinical portal that allows her to communicate directly with patients about everything from test results to medication refills. "I check my portal box each night, and can answer messages from patients after normal business hours, which makes it much easier to manage," she explained.

If your doctor isn't accessible this way, you'll have to contact them by phone to inquire about prescription refills — just be prepared for longer wait times.

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Will Insurance Cover Early or Advance Refills of Prescriptions?

"Since pharmacies are considered 'essential services,' I don't believe patients should worry much about being able to get their prescription medications," Dr. Matus said. But it's understandable if you want to try to limit the number of trips you'll need to make as this crisis goes on. While insurance companies are unlikely to cover the cost if you attempt to fill your prescription early, Dr. Matus explained that many do allow you to pick up a 90-day supply.

However, Dr. Nanos cautioned that this depends on both your insurance plan and the type of prescription you're requesting. For example, most controlled substances can't be filled early or for an extended period of time beyond what's prescribed. She recommends contacting your insurance company directly to find out their policies, as they may be evolving.

If money isn't tight, "patients often do have an option to pay cash for select prescriptions if they're struggling to get insurance approval," Dr. Nanos told POPSUGAR. "An excellent resource that we use and that I recommend to all my patients is an app called GoodRx, where you can find the cheapest price for any prescribed medication in your local area. There's often quite a bit of variation, so it's best to check this resource."

Image Source: Getty / LaylaBird

Can I Have My Prescriptions Delivered During the COVID-19 Outbreak?

Some pharmacies offer delivery services, but you'll need to do your homework to determine the cost. "It's best to call ahead and ask whether your pharmacy offers free delivery, or to verify with your insurance company whether delivery is covered," Dr. Matus advised. If local delivery isn't an option, you may be able to refill your prescriptions using a mail-order pharmacy — but again, check with your insurance. "Additionally, some pharmacies offer curbside pickup for medications," Dr. Matus told POPSUGAR, which at the very least, can help you keep a safe distance from others while you're out.

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Should I Be Worried That There Could Be a Medication Shortage?

"It's important not to panic," Dr. Nanos said, emphasizing that the current expectation is that pharmacies will remain open and continue to refill medications in a timely manner.

Dr. Matus told POPSUGAR that it's especially important during this time to take your medication as scheduled. "It's not necessary to 'conserve' medicine or skip doses to make it last longer," she said. "In order for medication to work for you the best possible way, taking your doses as prescribed by your physician is very important." Staying as healthy as possible decreases your risk of illnesses like COVID-19 — so effectively treating chronic medical conditions is more important now than ever.

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Nina Brewster

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