To Lower Your Medicare Drug Costs, Ask Your Pharmacist For The Cash Price | NPR

A simple question at the pharmacy could unlock savings for millions of Medicare beneficiaries.

Under a little-known Medicare rule, they can pay a lower cash price for prescriptions instead of using their insurance and doling out the amount the policy requires. But only if they ask.

That is because pharmacists say their contracts with drug plans often contain “gag orders” forbidding them from volunteering this information.

As part of President Trump’s blueprint to bring down prescription drug costs, Medicare officials warned in a May 17 letter that gag orders 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. They can get the lower price, when it’s available, simply by asking, says 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,” says Nick Newman, 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.”

For consumers inclined to price-shop, 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,” says Leigh Purvis, the AARP Public Policy Institute’s director of health services research.

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Paying Cash For Drugs May Be Cheaper For Seniors : Shots – Health News : NPR.