Bill could help reduce cases of Minnesotans overpaying for prescription drugs

A pharmacist at the counter.
A Minnesota Senate committee holds a hearing Tuesday on a bill designed to protect consumers from overpaying for medications.
Mark Lennihan | AP 2013

Filling a prescription through a pharmacy that has a business relationship with a customer's health insurance company is often the best way to get the lowest price.

Insurance companies negotiate discounts for their members with pharmacy chains, just as they do with health care providers.

Sometimes, though, a pharmacy's standard price is less than the insurer's negotiated rate.

But pharmacists may be contractually bound to keep that information under wraps. A bill up for a hearing in front of a Minnesota Senate committee would ban disclosure prohibitions that can stand in the way of pharmacists laying out best price options for their customers.

A bipartisan group in the U.S. Senate is also pushing a ban on the so-called "gag orders"

"Insurance is intended to save consumers money. Gag clauses in contracts that prohibit pharmacists from telling patients about the best prescription drug prices do the opposite," said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine. "Multiple reports have exposed how this egregious practice has harmed consumers, such as one customer who used his insurance to pay $129 for a drug when he could have paid $18 out of pocket."

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