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Budgeting? Late-March 2019 Consumer Price Watch

Contributed by: Heath Combs

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In the last column we highlighted increases in prescription-drug prices. In its April issue, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine talks about the combination of drug-price increases and drug-insurance plans dropping certain drugs from their plans. This could create an expensive problem for some consumers.

“Express Scripts and CVS Caremark, two large pharmacy benefit managers that provide drug coverage for many health plans, dropped about 90 drugs from their preferred” list of drugs they cover in 2019."

The two keys for consumers are to identify whether a drug that you use is on the list of 90 and whether that list of 90 – or another list – is being used by your insurance company.

According to the Kiplinger article, if one of your drugs is dropped you have several options:

  •  Ask your doctor if there is an alternative drug.

  • If a particular drug is critical to your care, you and your doctor could file an appeal with your insurance company.

  • See if paying cash is cheaper and incorporate a discount or a coupon 

  • Try getting financial assistance from the manufacturer’s assistance program. Go to PAN Foundation or Needy Meds to see if there are any programs for the prescription drugs that you use.

Gasoline

Two weeks ago the highest prices for gasoline in the region were $2.39. Prices have hit as high as $2.49. And the low prices are now at $2.35. Nationally, there’s been a 20-cent increase from last month. 

And as the weather gets warmer prices will continue to rise as more people start driving on vacation. But that isn’t the only problem. Oil traders are bidding up the prices of crude oil because worldwide supplies are getting tighter.

OPEC, with its biggest producer Saudi Arabia leading the way, is curtailing exports. The economic and humanitarian crisis in Venezuela is significantly hampering its oil production. And in the U.S., “the world’s top oil producer, is slackening as energy companies seek to save money to please their investors,” according to Kiplinger.

If you haven’t tried to use Gas Buddy app on your smartphone, it’s an excellent way to gauge the prices of gas in your neighborhood or traveling on the highway.

Food

On March 8 US Foods published a Farmer’s Report. It looks at the short-term pricing factors in produce, beef, pork, turkey, chicken, oils, dairy and seafood.

Here are some of the produce price increase highlights. If you look at the report, you can read about those types of food that you are buying the most frequently: 

  • Cabbage: Prices are on an upward turn because demand is stronger. Cold weather in California has hampered supplies.

  • Bell peppers: Prices are “skyrocketing.” Growers in the east are in between winter and spring crops. But Mexico is experiencing colder weather. Overall, supply is tight and quality is between fair and good.

  • Tomatoes: Prices are generally higher because of crop cycles, both in the U.S. and Mexico.

  • Broccoli: Demand is currently steady, but the supply is going to decrease out of California due to low temperatures and extra rain.

  • Limes: This time of year production is lower, so supplies get tight.

  • Strawberries: Mexico’s current production is down more than 50%. Demand currently exceeds supply. 

DirecTV 

AT&T announced that the price for DirectTV’s premium package will increase by $10 on April 12. Current customers are paying between $40 and $75. The new prices will range from $50 to $85. 

AT&T is also introducing two new DirecTV Now packages: Plus will be $50 a month for 46 channels, and Max will be $70 for 59 channels. Both packages will also include HBO, HBO Family and HBO Latino, which are owned by AT&T.

Previous DirecTV packages are no longer available to new customers. This is the second price increase for DirecTV in less than a year. Last summer prices increased by $5 a month.

Truliant can help

Need help budgeting, Truliant can sit down with you at one of our branches and suggest some simple strategies to manage the one thing that rarely goes down: prices. Please call 800.822.0382 for more details, or click or tap the Let's Get Started button here to set an appointment.




 

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