Medical Waste: New law could mean lower prescription prices

Medical Waste: New law could mean lower prescription prices

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - President Donald Trump signed a bill into law that resulted from our Medical Waste investigative series started more than two years ago. The bill could help lower prescription drug prices for all Americans.

Zurik: “And your pharmacies can’t say a thing to the customer?"

Randall Johnson: “They can’t. They can’t.”

Pharmacists around the country forced to remain silent even though their customers could save real money on prescription drugs.

Tana: “I have found...looking at my receipts, more of my prescriptions than not I could buy cheaper without my insurance.”

Zurik: “Does that seem right?”

Tana: “No. I feel cheated. And everyone else should, too.”

We found people all over the country overpaying for prescription medication. Unknown to them, these drugs would have been cheaper to buy without using insurance.

Louisiana Congressman Bill Cassidy co-sponsored a bill that now allows pharmacists to tell their customers when a drug would be cheaper without using insurance.

“The patient almost always at a disadvantage, true cost and having ability shop for price,” Cassidy said.

A pharmacist in another state sent us this letter he received from Optum, a company affiliated with United Healthcare. Optum scolded the pharmacist, writing that they “recently discovered that pharmacy advised members that utilizing a cash price for their prescription is a better deal than using their insurance benefits.” Optum wrote that telling customers a cheaper price exists is a “violation of the agreement,” that Optum “takes these matters very seriously,” and that “failure to timely comply with this notice could result in further disciplinary action, up to and including termination from all Optum pharmacy networks.”

Many pharmacists told us similar stories.

Zurki: “You have a contract with Optum?”

Pharmacist: “Yes.”

Zurik: “It prevents from saying anything?”

Pharmacist: “Yes.”

Zurik: “If Optum found out who you are.”

Pharmacist: “They’d come after me.”

Zurik: “They don’t want you telling the truth."

Pharmacist: “Correct.”

Zurik: “Why?”

Pharmacist: “Because people would be outraged if they knew they were paying premium every time they buy a drug.”

Cassidy’s bill prohibits insurers from enforcing gag clauses. He says his bill resulted from our stories, and the questions we brought to him in May of 2016.

Some states, including Louisiana, had already passed laws preventing these gag clauses. Now, no matter where you fill a prescription in the U.S., the pharmacist can tell you if a cheaper price exists.

In a time when Congress agrees on little, this bipartisan legislation unanimously passed, and Cassidy said the companies responsible for the gag clauses...didn’t fight it.

“I think they were embarrassed on this one. Those did kept low profile,” he said.

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