A prescription for an (expensive) headache

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On Jan. 24, the CDA Press informed us that Shopko was exiting the pharmacy business. If you get prescriptions filled there it could affect you so heed this warning.

I received a call from a local reader who got an unpleasant surprise when he went to pick up his prescriptions. Shopko’s pharmacy was recently acquired by Rite Aid. If you get your prescriptions filled there you need to double check with the store to make sure you are in-network for your refills or face higher charges.

Our reader is on Medicare and has supplemental insurance. The prescriptions fell into the Tier 1 category, which meant there should have been zero charge but he had to fork over $42. This frustrated reader called the insurance company to find out why and it turns out the new owner of the pharmacy isn’t in his insurance company’s network — hence the “extra” charge.

According to the reader, his insurance company informed him that the store isn’t obligated to tell him they are out-of-network and that higher charges might apply. Of course, our reader wanted to return the pills but the store said they wouldn’t take them back.

Best to get the charges figured out with your insurance company before you need a prescription refill or you could find yourself in the same predicament.

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DIGITAL WALLET EXPLAINED: The traditional wallet that we try to hold onto tightly is giving way to a new digital form of wallet. The bad news with traditional wallets is they are entirely unsecure so if a thief gets hold of it, they get the cash and they have access to the physical credit cards as well. Even so, according to Yahoo News, an estimated 85 percent of transactions are still based on cash and checks.

To help combat thieves, many people are now embracing the digital wallet. Simply put, the digital wallet is based on encryption software that substitutes for your physical wallet during monetary transactions. Many work through apps on our smartphones and they are changing the way we pay for things.

It’s supposed to provide both protection and convenience. The benefit to merchants is they’re protected against fraud better and can process us through the line quicker.

For example, at the supermarket, you might simply tap your phone to a compatible check-out register to pay instantly. For others, all you need to use them is either your cell phone number or a PIN. Many already pay for purchases this way like their Starbucks coffee or lunch at Qdoba.

Another benefit is that a digital wallet can store our concert tickets, bus and subway passes, gift cards and even plane tickets and boarding passes. Some retailers offer perks to pay for purchases with a digital wallet, so it could “pay” to figure out this new technology.

I’ll admit it is nice to have my boarding pass stored on my smartphone, which requires only that I wave my phone over the scanner and not have to fumble with a paper copy. But, I still carry the paper boarding pass just in case my smartphone fails to deliver. I have an iPhone and after getting caught up with the draining battery debacle, I’d hate to be the one at the front of the line whose smartphone battery just went dead.

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DIGITAL ANTENNA ADVICE: Which digital antenna is best? As with most things, there is no one size fits all answer. It depends on location and terrain, not to mention figuring out the best direction to place the antenna with enough amplification to get a good signal.

An astute reader has come across a couple of excellent resources to help. Unlike the website I suggested last week, the first one is a non-commercial site from the National Association of Broadcasters and the Consumer Technology Association. It offers more detailed antenna signal information and general TV antenna information without recommending a particular brand.

The website https://antennaweb.org allows you to type in your address, then shows the antenna types suited for all stations in the area along with a map of which direction to face the antenna for best signal strength.

The other site is: www.cordcutters.com

This one has lots of interesting general information and ideas on how to reduce your cable bill.

Our reader learned that all the Spokane transmitters are on the South Hill, except KXLY-4 on Mt. Spokane. He further determined that the Spokane channels rebroadcast from a repeater on top of Canfield Mountain, east of Dalton Gardens, but the transmitter is not very powerful if you can’t see Canfield. Those on the prairie are better positioned to benefit from an antenna.

From the information on the antennaweb.org site, almost every new TV antenna sold is suitable for receiving digital TV over-the-air broadcasts, if the signal is strong enough. That means for many viewers, there might be no need to spend $30 on a digital antenna when a simple $10 antenna will work.

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Remember: I’m on your side.

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If you have encountered a consumer issue that you have questions about or think our readers should know about, please send me an email at terridickersonadvocate@gmail.com or call me at 208-274-4458. As The CDA Press Consumer Gal, I’m here to help. Please include your name and a phone number or email. I’m available to speak about consumerism to schools, local and civic groups. I’m a copywriter, columnist and consumer advocate living in Coeur d’Alene.

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