According to NBC News, President Trump signed two new bills on October 10, 2018, aimed at helping people to save on drugs. The two bills – ‘Patient Right to Know Drug Prices Act’ and ‘Know the Lowest Price Act’ would allow pharmacists to tell consumers when paying cash for a prescription, would be cheaper than using insurance.
These two bills will remove the ‘gag clauses’ that are found in agreements between pharmacies and pharmacy benefit managers.
Removing gag clauses will ultimately help in lowering prescription drug costs to a great extent.
“This is very strong legislation to end these unjust gag clauses once and for all,” Trump said at the signing ceremony. He further added, “All our great citizens deserve to know the lowest price available at our pharmacies, and now that is what they’ll be getting.
What Are ‘Gag Clauses’ and Why Are They Removed?
Under the pharmacy “gag clauses” rules, a pharmacist cannot advise consumers about the availability of cheaper options.
Many times, customers can save more on their prescriptions by paying in cash instead of using health insurance, but nobody tells them. This is because of these gag clauses. They are included in the contracts insurers have with pharmacies. If any pharmacist attempts to disclose cheaper drug options to consumers, they can be penalized.
Now under the new legislation, pharmacists will have the liberty to help patients save money on their prescriptions by telling them about low-cost options that may be available.
“We believe these two bills help unshackle pharmacists to use their expertise to have conversations with patients that help them receive the most appropriate medication at the lowest cost without fear of retribution,” says Doug Hoey, CEO of the National Community Pharmacists Association, a trade group that represents independent pharmacists.
Prescription Drug Prices to be Posted in Consumer Ads
The Trump administration has gone a step further to enhance drug price transparency. The rule that was proposed on Monday, Oct 15, 2018, requires drug manufacturers to disclose list prices of their medications in ads directed to consumers.
The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America said that its member companies have agreed to post prices on their websites but the Health Secretary Alex M. Azar is not satisfied with that and says it’s not enough. According to him, the television advertising rule will be proposed.
In his speech to the National Academy of Medicine in D.C., he said:
“Patients deserve to know what a given drug could cost when they’re being told about the benefits and risks it may have. They deserve to know if the drug company has pushed their prices to abusive levels, and they deserve to know this every time they see a drug advertised to them on TV.”
The pharmaceutical industry is opposing the idea of including list prices in ads arguing that consumers don’t actually pay the list price. It’s their insurance that dictates how much they will pay out-of-pocket for a particular drug.
However, Mr. Azar countered that list price does matter. People enrolled in high-deductible health plans have to pay thousands of dollars for expensive prescription drugs before their insurance kicks in.
The agreement is set to take effect in April. This change might force drug companies into thinking twice before increasing prices while giving consumers an opportunity to save on drugs by doing comparison shopping.
There is a mixed reaction to this proposed rule. While some advocates think that this is real progress and will help consumers save on drugs, others don’t believe that it will help in lowering prescription drug prices. It’s still not clear how effective the change will be when in practice.
How Can Medicare Beneficiaries Save on Drugs?
In most cases, the drug might cost you less if you buy it yourself, especially when you use a manufacturer coupon or a drug discount card. However, if you use a Medicare Advantage or Part D plan, you are restricted to use such discounts, regardless of whether a gag clause exists.
Medicare beneficiaries who want to cut prescription drug costs should ask the pharmacist about the availability of a generic or lower-cost drug. After that, they can decide whether paying cash for prescriptions and using a discount card would be less expensive than the insurance co-pay.
Using Discount Drug Network Card to Save on Prescription Drugs
With Discount Drug Network’s prescription discount card, you can save up to 85% on your prescription medications. It is very easy to use. Just visit the Discount Drug Network website and use the drug pricing tool to find the lowest price for prescription medication in your area. Then, simply present the discount card at your pharmacy when you drop off your prescription and there you have it – Great savings with no hard work!
In a Nutshell
Healthcare costs are on a rising trend this year with prescription drug prices rising by 3.7 percent in the first quarter and 3.4 percent in the second, averaging 3.5 percent growth for the first half of the year.
We expect that the passing of these two laws along with the proposed rule for showing drug prices in television ads will help in reducing medical costs for Americans. Drug price transparency will give consumers an opportunity to save on drugs and manage their healthcare expenses.