Tips to Help Save Money on Prescription Medication Costs

(BPT) – Modern medications can work wonders, improving quality of life, curing illness and even saving lives. However, those miracles can come at a high cost, as anyone who’s had to pay for branded prescription medication knows. In fact, spending on prescription drugs has increased 73 percent in the past seven years, according to a new report from the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA).

What’s driving the increase

The Health of America Report found prescription drug spending by Blue Cross and Blue Shield (BCBS) members increased 10 percent annually since 2010. High costs of patent-protected drugs account for the lion’s share of the total increase.

Generic drugs account for 82 percent of total prescriptions filled, but account for just 37 percent of total drug spending. By contrast, patent-protected prescription drugs comprise less than 10 percent of all prescriptions filled but account for 63 percent of total drug spending, the report found.

“Experience and past price trends suggest drug costs will continue to rise in the future,” says Maureen Sullivan, chief strategy and innovation officer for BCBS. “The need for more affordable generic alternatives to costly patent-protected brand-name pharmaceuticals is urgent. As prices continue to rise, more consumers will be looking for ways to curb the cost of their medications.”

What you can do

It is possible to lower your drug costs while still taking the medications your doctor has prescribed to help your health. BCBSA offers some guidance:

* If your doctor prescribes a costly name-brand medication, ask your physician or pharmacist if a generic version is available. Generic drugs are identical to their brand-name equivalents in dosage form, safety, strength and quality, how you take them, performance and intended use, according to the Food and Drug Administration. Generics typically cost less than name-brand medications. The BCBSA report shows how costs for medicines like Lipitor (atorvastatin) and Avapro (irbesartan) plummet when generic alternatives become available.

* It may be possible for your doctor to prescribe a higher strength than you need of a particular medication and allow you to split the tablet or pill to get the lower dose you need at a lower cost. In fact, many pills that can be safely split come pre-scored with an indentation that makes it easier to cut them in half. However, not all prescription medications can be safely split, so be sure to talk to your doctor or pharmacist about whether it’s safe to split your medications.

* Ordering prescription medications through the mail could lower drug costs, but it’s important to ensure you’re buying from your pharmacy benefit manager, typically listed on the back of an insurance card. The FDA recommends you only purchase drugs from organizations located in the U.S. and licensed by the state board of pharmacy where the company operates (find a list of state boards of pharmacy at www.nabp.info). The mail order pharmacy should have a licensed pharmacist available to answer your questions, require a prescription from your doctor in order to sell you medication, and have someone you can talk to directly if you have questions or problems.

* Another way to reduce drug costs is to ask your doctor to write your prescription for a 90-day supply so that you will get a three-month supply of the medication for the price of one co-pay.

* Finally, review your prescriptions with your doctor at least every six months to ensure you’re not taking any more medicines than you absolutely need. However, never skip doses of medicine, avoid refilling a prescription or stop taking medicine altogether without first consulting your doctor.

For more information about prescription drug costs, and to read the full Health of America report, visit www.bcbs.com/healthofamerica.

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You Will Soon Be Able To Smell Like IKEA

In case you thought the IKEA craze was dwindling — it isn’t. Thanks to Swedish indie fragrance creator Byredo, you’ll soon be able to pair your Off-White™ FRAKTA Bag with the Scandinavian furniture store’s scent. Byredo founder Ben Gorham took to his Instagram account to announce the collaboration, posting an image captioned “SCALE.” The meaning of the caption, as well as what exactly the scent will be, has yet to be revealed.

IKEA’s press release hints cinnamon buns may play a role in inspiring the scent, calling upon a democratic approach to smell. “We’re trying to develop a ton of smells enforcing the idea that everyone has a different relationship to it, and nothing is right or wrong,” explains Gorham in the release.

With Byredo’s fragrances marking in at $150 USD for perfume and $80 USD for a candle, chances are when the fragrance drops, smelling like IKEA will be more expensive than shopping ther

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Best Buy Now Lets You Rent and Try Gadgets Before You Buy Them From Amazon

As the mortar of brick and mortar businesses slowly crumbles, retailers are scrambling to come up with a reason why you should use them instead of companies like Amazon and… well, pretty much just Amazon. Best Buy’s solution? Be more like Blockbuster Video.

Best Buy has managed to do just fine in the current marketplace, and its stock price has increased by 67 percent over the last two years. But part of the reason for that is the loss of brick and mortar competition. But that won’t last forever.

Amazon has been systematically dismantling IRL bookstore chains, and now that its victory is clear, it’s opening its own retail stores. With its announcement of try-before-you-buy rentals, it might have a service that Amazon doesn’t. The question is, will anyone really want it?

The rental system won’t be a direct interaction with Best Buy. Customers will see a rental button beside items on BestBuy.com, and if they click it, they’ll be sent to Lumoid’s website to complete the rental. The referral from the Best Buy website gets you 20 percent of the rental price back in Lumoid credit that could count towards the purchase. The partnership between the two companies allows Best Buy to put its open box items to better use. Of course, if you’re thinking of purchasing an open box item, from now on you should consider that it might be very used.

Will this be appealing to most customers? It seems like it would only be necessary with certain newer items like VR headsets and drones. Speaking of which, drones won’t be available. How about cameras? Some users might want to make hands-on comparisons. But of course, there are plenty of consumer tech publications that help you zero in on what you want. And let’s not forget the old school try-before-you-buy system: make the purchase and return it if you don’t like it. Presumably, Best Buy would rather you not do that.

Honestly, for a lot of high-end items, you shouldn’t buy it used from a retailer. Say you want some audio equipment—find a pro or hobbyist who’s selling and cares about their gear. Older generations probably remember renting that busted Virtual Boy from Blockbuster and being turned off for good.

But maybe this will turn out to be a valued service. If so, all we know is that Amazon will be ready to do it and it’ll probably somehow be included with Prime.

Are Brands Being Sincere in Their Support for Pride?

Year after year, brands announce their Pride-themed special edition products. From sneakers to bandanas to entire clothing ranges, rainbows, unicorns and encouraging hashtags become ubiquitous for a couple of weeks, and brands proudly announce how they’ve been supporting the good cause since Day One.

Adidas, Nike, Levi’s and Converse are among the many streetwear brands that annually release such special edition products and support the LGBT community by donating proceeds of the sales to charities.

It’s commendable that big brands show their support in this way, but let’s not forget that Pride is more than a march for equality: it has become a business. Embracing the LGBT community has become a very lucrative move for brands, both financially and in terms of gaining social capital.

Among the many brands that support Pride, there are only a few that genuinely care about all the members of the LGBT community by making real efforts to be inclusive within their own structures.

In London and NYC, the corporate embrace of the LGBT community is so tight that Pride parades now heavily rely on sponsorship, which has resulted in some unlikely partnerships: London Pride 2016 was sponsored by arms dealer BAE systems, and also featured stunts performed by the RAF – two companies that directly contribute to and profit from human suffering. Understandably, anti-militarist groups were outraged.

They argued that there should be “No Pride in war” and that the march has turned into a shameful event. Then there’s Wal-Mart, one of many top level sponsors of NYC Pride in 2016. The company regularly becomes the centre of attention itself because of its involvement in countless race-based discrimination lawsuits.

NYC Pride made a total of $1.7 million from sponsorship deals in 2016, and with rates from $12,500 to $175,000 per package, it comes as no big surprise that not all decisions Pride’s management makes are purely based on ethical grounds.

Millennials tend to skip commercials, block banners and generally try their best to ignore advertising, but the vast majority actually do care about brands that engage with them and give something back to society(60% and 75%, respectively).

With 65% of Millennials and only 48% of Gen Z’ers identifying as completely heterosexual, it makes a lot of sense for brands to declare their love for the LGBT community. Their special-edition products provide exactly what many young people can easily get on board with: supporting a relatable cause through consumerism.

However, the corporate embrace becomes problematic when companies that do nothing to promote equality within their own ranks affiliate themselves with Pride and the LGBT community.

These companies benefit from being perceived as progressive without actually having to change a thing about their often questionable policies, such as the treatment of their employees in non-Western countries – countries that have LGBT communities, too. Their shameful practices, past and present, are brushed under the carpet and the most vulnerable members of the community get thrown under the pinkwashed bus.

In the words of writer, journalist and trans activist Shon Faye, there’s a heavy price to pay for being capitalism’s sassy best friend. She describes pinkwashing as “a PR strategy that is designed to conceal distressing realities and uncomfortable truths [and] isolates sexuality from class, race, nationality, religion and gender in order to tell us that equality is possible for all” – a strategy that proves to be a winning one.

Conservative politicians have long made gay equality part of their agenda while their policies have had a detrimental effect on economically-vulnerable members of the LGBT community. Policemen dance happily with the crowd at Pride and create a beautiful illusion of unity for spectators, while conveniently distracting from the violence people of color, including queer and trans PoC, still face at the hands of police.

If brands really want to be taken seriously as supporters of the LGBT community, they’ll have to put their money where their mouth is and embrace the economically-vulnerable members of the community as much as the affluent ones.

Instead of turning a blind eye to the hardship marginalized members of the LGBT community still face, 48 years after the Stonewall riots, they could show their support all year round by improving the working conditions of their existing employees, including those in non-Western countries, and by employing more diverse staff – from the shop-floor all the way up to the boardroom.

That’s what meaningful support of Pride is really about.

Amazon Is Targeting Walmart’s Customer Base By Offering Prime Discounts To Low-Income Families

Walmart’s unchallenged rule as the leader of the retail industry might not be as widely accepted a fact as it once was thanks to the internet and other competitors, but in many parts of the country the brick and mortar giant is still the go-to store for everyday needs and major purchases alike. In recent years, Amazon has made more and more of a push to combat brick and mortar competitors with same-day shipping and automatic ordering for some household needs and their latest business decision looks to be a clear shot at one of Walmart’s largest customer demographics.

Amazon is now offering a massive 45-percent discount on it’s Prime subscription service for customers who are receiving government aid. While it’s not a direct discount on all Prime items, that subscription discount will open doors for people to access deep discounts and free shipping on thousands of items which makes a difference for low-income shoppers who may be paying similar prices at Walmart. This opportunity, however, means that those customers who don’t have the means to get to a Walmart or don’t live close to a location can now have necessary purchases delivered directly to their home for discount prices.

Recode reports that the discounted price will be $6/month for those eligible, compared to $11/month normally — people will qualify for the lower price on a yearly basis and can qualify up to four total times for the discount. While Walmart is one of the foremost recipients of the US SNAP program, Amazon’s offer only currently applies to customers who use EBT cards which can be used electronically. However, Walmart shouldn’t feel too comfortable with that differentiation as Amazon also says they are looking for ways to expand beyond EBT eligibility in the future.

The Solar Industry Is Creating Jobs 17 Times Faster Than The Rest of The US Economy

A new report released by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) reveals that solar jobs in the US (and other nations) are expanding quickly.

As of November 2016, the American solar industry employed 260,077 workers. This is an increase of 24.5 percent from 2015, with a growth rate that is 17 times faster than the United States economy as a whole.

The lion’s share of these jobs (241,900) were in solar photovoltaics, with an additional 13,000 in solar heating and cooling, and the remaining 5,200 in concentrated solar power (CSP).

More than half of all solar jobs in the US were in installation. Another 15 percent were in manufacturing, with 13 percent in project development, 12 percent in sales and distribution, and a final 6 percent in other areas, including research and development.

The sunlight that is harvested by solar systems is, obviously, free. This makes labour costs and materials the main areas of spending in the solar industry. As costs for materials continue to drop, solar jobs remain a well-compensated area for blue-collar workers.

The solar labour force is also becoming more diverse, with the number of women workers at 28 percent in 2016, up from 19 percent in 2013, with up to 33.8 percent in the sales and distribution area.

This means more women have jobs in solar than in the conventional energy industry, although women in solar still lag behind their representative 47 percent of the US economy.

Solar jobs aren’t the only thriving area in the US economy right now. Wind industry employment produced around 102,500 jobs in 2016, which IRENA projects will grow to 147,000 jobs by 2020.

Jobs in ethanol declined despite increased production due to rising labor productivity; most ethanol-related jobs (about 161,700) were in agriculture, with about 35,000 jobs in actual ethanol production.

Twenty-three percent more biodiesel production in 2016 meant a corresponding 23 percent in jobs, about 61,100 total, with almost 80,000 total in direct and indirect employment in solid biomass.

Finally, there were about 7,000 biogas jobs in the US in 2016.

Jobs in fossil fuels are going away as the sources of the fuels become scarcer and less expensive options become available.

As R&D overcomes more of the stumbling blocks to bringing power from renewable sources into the grid and prices continue to drop, we can expect to see more jobs in renewables.

They are safer, healthier, and more sustainable than jobs in the fossil fuel industry, so this is great for our labor force as well as the planet.

The Psychology of Why Companies Should Embrace More Three-Day Weekends

Most Americans with regular day jobs would probably say that they live for the weekend. And to those overworked and tired laborers and pencil pushers, a three-day weekend comes as a blessing from above.

But one extra day every now and then isn’t enough to revitalize people in any meaningful way. While people might get an extra hour or two of sleep and feel a little bit better, it’s likely that they’re just riding out the high of a placebo effect.

In order to really fight sleep deprivation and boost productivity, more companies may want to look into making three-day weekends a regular deal.

“I think the best way is to say we’re gonna work our butts off Monday through Thursday, but people want Friday off,” says Jarrod Spencer, a sports psychologist who started a company called Mind of the Athlete and wrote a book of the same name. In the summer, he wants his employees to spend more time at home. “After lunch on Friday, we’re done,” he says.

Spencer says that he sees a number of benefits to the “Summer Friday” model in which employers give people shortened work hours — flexible or enforced — on Fridays so they can get more rest and spend more time on self-care at home. Among other things, he says his employees are more willing to work from Monday to Thursday — during which they fall into a routine sleep schedule — than they are on Friday afternoons.

There’s no denying the psychological benefits to spending less time at work: Many advocates of long weekends argue that they should be year-round so people can enjoy more time away from work to sleep, relax, and clear their minds.

And research is on your side. One study suggests that the two-day weekend acts as more of a disruption to the circadian rhythm (the body’s internal clock that directs sleep cycles) and can impair people’s moods and mental capacities upon returning to work or school. While people can make up for some of the sleep they missed during the week — whether it be by sleeping in or afternoon naps — two days of sleeping in is enough to adjust the circadian rhythm such that they have to jolt back into their regular rhythm when they wake up early on Monday morning. When people can take Friday off to relax, they have more time to sleep, exercise, or work on their relationships. The result is a clearer mind and more productive work during the week.

“I think it increases focus,” says Spencer. “When we have more time, we spend it on ourselves and our health, or our relationships. We’re able to focus more on the task at hand at work with fewer outside mental distractions, so I think it translates to work efficiency.”

You may feel some of these benefits this Memorial Day, but it won’t be enough to pay off your sleep debt. Spencer compares the holiday to taking a sip of water while trapped in the desert: it feels great but doesn’t actually do anything for you. Rather, sleep studies suggest that it will take a long-term approach to really make up for lost sleep and improve your circadian rhythm in a less disruptive manner. Hence the three-day weekend.

But the distinction between Summer Fridays and a universal three-day weekend is deliberate. Spencer argues that if people always had a three-day weekend, their bodies and minds would just shift to the new routine and the same complaints that that they have about having to work on Friday would re-emerge on Thursday. So it’s less about getting a specific amount of time than it is about getting extra time off beyond the norm, though getting three rather than two days off on a regular basis does help smooth the transitions from weekend to weekday sleep cycle.

“There’s not a person in America who’s working efficiently and productively between one and five on Friday,” says Spencer. “We’re already checked out mentally, so we might as well check out physically as well.”

The Green Rush Is Real… Forbes Predicts Marijuana Industry To Be One Of The Nation’s Largest

A new report from Marijuana Business Daily estimates that the total demand for marijuana in the cannabis industry is worth around $45-$50 billion in the US.

For context, they put these numbers alongside a few other classic American staples:

  • Ice cream sales are around $5.1 billion
  • Movie tickets come in at $11.1 billion
  • Girl Scout Cookies rake in $776 million
  • Paid streaming music is a $2.5 billion industry

Surprised? There’s more. As Forbes notes:

The report points out that these employees spend their earnings on housing, food, travel and entertainment, which helps other local businesses. The launch of all these cannabis businesses has sparked a real estate boom in spaces that were for the most part previously vacant. Tourism is bringing new travel dollars into these states as well.

The report estimates that for every $1 consumers spend at dispensaries, another $3 in economic benefits are created in cities, states and nationwide. State and local municipalities are plugging holes in their budgets with the marijuana tax receipts and making infrastructure repairs and boosting schools.

“On the recreational side of the business, the originally legalized states are still posting massive growth,” Chris Walsh, editor of Marijuana Business Daily, which published the report, said according to Forbes. “The demand for marijuana is so enormous in this country.”

The Robots Taking Factory Jobs Just Had Their Best Quarter Ever

The North American robotics industry had its best first quarter ever in 2017, in terms of both money made and robots sold.

A new report published last week by the Robotic Industries Association finds that “an all-time high total of 9,773 robots valued at approximately $516 million were ordered from North American robotics companies during the first quarter of 2017.” It marks a 32 percent increase in units sold from the first quarter of 2016 and 28 percent growth in the value of the units.

There was also a 3 percent decrease in the average price of these units over the same time. Robots are getting cheaper and people are buying more of them.

All those statistics add up to great news for robotics companies and their clients, who can see their businesses become more efficient and keep up with custome demand. A $516 million dollar Q1 showing is more than enough to seat robotics in the echelon of billion dollar industries, and its continued expansion, based on past trends, is all but assured.

But where will that new wealth go? It’s here that industry growth could spell bad news for individual workers in jobs — even beyond manufacturing — that will be hit by automation. It’s bad news that many, including former President Barack Obama, have already foreseen. “The next wave of economic dislocation won’t come from overseas. It will come from the relentless pace of automation that makes many good, middle-class jobs obsolete,” said Obama in his farewell address, zeroing in the problem.

A study released in March confirmed that automation is eliminating jobs faster than new ones can emerge.

The trend has the potential to seriously impact Rust Belt and specific-skill workers over the long term, wrote co-authors by Daron Acemoglu of MIT and Pascual Restrepo of Boston University.

Acemoglu recently told Inverse in March that, “robots are less complementary to a distinct set of skills that exist in the labor market at the moment than previous technologies.” They are more likely to replace workers, rather than augment their skills as inventions like mechanical looms and computers did in the past.

The study also showed that unemployment rises at a disproportionately high rate for each robot added. It’s not a 1-to-1 trade-off. Adding one robot to a group of 1,000 workers, they found, would increase the unemployment rate by .18 to .34 percent (if it was 1-to-1 they would have seen a .1 percent drop in employment per robot per thousand workers). A single robot could replace up to 3 or more human workers, depending on the industry.

The first quarter of 2017 saw nearly 1,000 robots purchased. It could be nearly 1,300 robots purchased in Q1 of 2018. That could cost over 3,000 jobs in Q1 alone. While those numbers may seem small now, given that the 211,000 jobs created in April, they will grow quickly.

The strength of America’s economy is often measured through employment statistics. But the continued rise of automation could upset that metric, creating a paradox. Whole companies, thanks to the cheaper, safer, and more efficient labor of machines, will continue to profit — maybe even more than they are now. But workers, left to compete for fewer positions, will keep losing their jobs.

One industry watcher sums it up as dystopian. Ben Wardell, founder of software company Stardock, warned in 2016 of a coming division between The Gods and The Useless. He writes in a blog post, “I am telling you the automation revolution isn’t happening soon. It’s happening right now.” And Wardell says he aren’t ready — we’re “oblivious.”

But few real solutions have actually been suggested, perhaps because Americans still don’t see it as a problem that will affect them personally. ““Automation is generally a good thing if you educate workers,” said Ian McCormack, one of 15 blue-collar workers at a Trump rally interviewed by Inverse during the 2016 election.

As things stand, that’s a big “if,” since no policies to that effect have yet emerged.

The responsibility could simply fall to business leaders. It’s been done before. Chieh Huang, CEO of Boxed.com recently automated his warehouse without shedding a single worker. In fact, he gave some of them promotions. Huang told Inverse, “Instead of just saying, ‘you’re not going to lose your job,’ I actually wanted this to be an opportunity for folks to learn a skill that’s going to be really important in the future.” It’s a laudable move, but Huang has only 85 employees. The question remains whether the heads of much larger companies will show similar fidelity.

Some, like Elon Musk, have put forward out-there policy ideas. “This is going to be a massive social challenge,” Musk said in February at the World Government Summit. “And I think ultimately we are going to have some sort of universal basic income. I don’t think we have any choice.”

Workable solution or not, Americans may soon find themselves facing a new kind of economy: One that’s flush with productivity and cash but is simultaneously inaccessible to the increasing numbers of people whose skills are obsolete.

Apple May Soon Be Worth $1 Trillion USD

Despite worries about an iPhone 8 delay, Apple has had an incredible year and it looks like things are only going to get better for its stock value. According to reports, the Cupertino tech giant has received its highest-ever price target — one that would put its valuation in excess of $1 trillion USD. Apple’s stock is currently up over 31% this year — to $153.16 USD as of this afternoon — but investment bank Drexel Hamilton expects it to climb significantly higher in the next twelve months. Its projection? A rise in value to $202 USD. Should Apple indeed reach that projection, it would be worth an astounding $1.053 trillion USD.

“In our view, Apple’s quarterly results will be less important this summer as investors are focused on the iPhone 8 this fall, along with the company’s raised capital distribution initiative, depressed valuation, and potential new innovations,” says Drexel Hamilton equity analyst Brian White in a note to his clients. “We believe Apple remains among the most underappreciated stocks in the world.”