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You're running low on gas, and there are two gas stations nearby. Do you stop at the closest one? The one with the best coffee? Or the one advertising the lowest price? If you're like me, lowest price usually wins.

Getting a prescription filled is a lot like filling your gas tank. Did you know that prices can vary from pharmacy to pharmacy for the same medicine? And, these prices can change often. Also, similar to the gas stations, the larger, well-known pharmacy chains don't necessarily have the most competitive prices.

Just like gas stations, pharmacies can set their own prices for medicines. They have to stay within a certain range determined by the type of medicine it is and agreements they have with your particular health insurance plan. Manufacturing shortages and supply issues can also affect medicine prices – just like oil prices. The bottom line? If you're spending a lot of money to fill regular prescriptions, it pays to find the best deal.

2 ways to shop

Unlike gas stations, pharmacies don’t post their prescription prices on brightly lit signs out front. There are still ways to find out how much your medicine will cost before you make the trip.

1. Online tools:

Many health plans offer an online tool which lets you search for a medicine and see the per-day costs at different pharmacies in your area. You can even do this on your smartphone right from your doctor's office. Keep in mind that your final out-of- pocket cost will depend on how your health insurance covers medicines under your health plan.

HealthPartners members: You can do that here!

2. Call

You can call your health insurance member services line to find out the cost. They can talk you through options about where to go for the best price.

HealthPartners members: If you have pharmacy questions, you can call 866-836- 6938 and ask to talk to a Pharmacy Navigator.

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