As part of President Donald Trump’s blueprint to bring down prescription costs, Medicare officials have warned insurers that “gag orders” keeping pharmacists from alerting seniors that they could save money by paying cash – rather than using their insurance – are “unacceptable and contrary” to the government’s effort to promote price transparency.
But the agency stopped short of requiring insurers to lift such restrictions on pharmacists.
That doesn’t mean people with Medicare drug coverage are destined to overpay for prescriptions.But first, they must ask the pharmacist about that option, said Julie Carter, federal policy associate at the Medicare Rights Center, a patient advocacy group.
“If they bring it up, then we can inform them of those prices,” said Nick Newman, PharmD, a pharmacist and the manager at Essentra Pharmacy in rural Marengo, Ohio. “It’s a moral dilemma for the pharmacist, knowing what would be best for the patient, but not being able to help them and hoping they will ask you about the comparison.”
A simple question could unlock some savings for millions of beneficiaries.
But details may be hard to find: Medicare’s website and annual handbook don’t mention it.
“If you don’t know that there are a bunch of different prices that could be available at any given pharmacy, you don’t know what you don’t know,” said Leigh Purvis, the AARP Public Policy Institute’s director of health services research.