President Trump has signed two bills into law to block insurers from enforcing “gag clauses” that forbid pharmacies from telling customers about how they can pay less for drugs.
The Patient Right to Know Drug Prices Act and the Know the Lowest Price Act are intended to help patients find out whether a prescription would cost less if they were to pay for it out of pocket rather than through their health plans.
“Our great citizen deserve to know the lowest prices available at our pharmacies and now that is what they are getting,” Trump said at the White House.
Trump had called for the bills to be passed as part of his administration’s larger commitment to reduce prescription drug costs for patients, and the bills had moved easily out of Congress.
"If there's anything bipartisan, it's lowering drug prices," Trump said, adding that signing the bill representing him delivering on his healthcare promises.
The first measure applies to people who are covered by private health insurance and goes into effect immediately. The second measure applies to patients who are covered by Medicare, the government program for adults 65 and older and for people with disabilities, and goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2020.
The “gag clauses” had forbidden pharmacists from telling customers when they could save money by paying the lower cash price instead of the price that had been negotiated by a health insurance plan.
The system involving how drugs are paid for is complex, involving not just drug companies and health insurers but middlemen known as pharmacy benefits managers. These entities, as well as insurers, use “gag clauses” in their contracts to prohibit pharmacists from informing customers that they can save money if they don't go through their health plans. Pharmacists could be dropped from insurance networks or fined if they violated these contracts.
Under the new rules signed into law Wednesday, pharmacists aren’t obligated to tell a customer about the lower cost, but cannot be forced to keep quiet.
Alex Azar, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, said at the White House that the bill gave patients the "right to know."
"You can ask your pharmacist, 'Can I pay less for this medicine than my insurance will make me pay?'" he said of the legislation.
He vowed more regulatory action on drug prices, saying that the latest move represented only the "tip of the iceberg."
Trump said before signing the bills that drug pricing was “way out of whack” and vowed prices would come down as a result of the efforts of his administration. He touted how his tweets led to drug companies holding off on price increases, and how the Food and Drug Administration had approved more generic drugs, which are less expensive than band alternatives.
“It’s way too high,” Trump said of drug prices. “I have been talking about it a long time, long before I ever decided to run for president.” https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/policy/healthcare/trump-signs-bills-banning-pharmacy-gag-clauses