High healthcare costs are something many of us are familiar with. In 2017, the U.S. spent about $3.5 trillion, or 18 percent of GDP, on health expenditures. While healthcare can admittedly be complicated, frustrating and expensive, we’re hopeful because 2019 brings new ways you can save on prescriptions, as well as an increase in pricing transparency from pharmacists and hospitals.
For years, many pharmacists were not allowed to talk to their customers about ways to save money on prescription drugs. For example, it’s not uncommon that a prescription would cost less by paying cash rather than using health insurance. However, pharmacists could not disclose this information.
But no more. Two bills recently passed banning “gag order” clauses in contracts between pharmacies and insurance companies or pharmacy benefit managers, which are the firms that negotiate prices for insurers and employers with drugstores and drugmakers. Now when the cash price for a prescription is less than what you would pay using your insurance plan, pharmacists won’t have to keep mum.
The Trump administration kicked off 2019 with a bipartisan healthcare policy requiring hospitals be transparent by disclosing the price of their most common procedures on their websites.
While enforcing transparency is a step in the right direction, many lists provided by the hospitals are hard to find on their websites and even more difficult to digest. With thousands of lines of data and wording that only a medical professional can understand, some critics are deeming the policy as mostly useless, at least for now.
In California, however, hospitals are required to disclose the charges for their most common procedures in a more consumer-friendly format. Here, the documents are available on a single state-run website, meaning you’re not searching high and low for pricing on each hospital’s maze-like website.
If the Trump administration enforces price listing similar to California’s model, we’re hopeful that this new policy can enable consumers to make more informed decisions about their hospital visit.
Medicine is a costly necessity, but there are ways to save. RetailMeNot Rx Saver is a free site and app that lets consumers quickly compare prescription drug prices to identify which pharmacy has the lowest price on a medication, and provides coupons to lower the cost. A 2018 Rx Saver survey found that:
Because drug prices can vary significantly by pharmacy, Rx Saver is a valuable resource to identifying your most cost-friendly solution. With Rx Saver, not only will you avoid leaving money on the pharmacy counter, but you may also save up to 80 percent* on your prescriptions—whether you have health insurance or not.
Looking down the road, there are other developments in the works that look promising. For example, these four new Affordable Care Act (ACA) waiver concepts as well as the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) implementing a new “International Pricing Index” (IPI) payment model to reduce what Americans pay for prescription drugs. As more rulings are finalized, we will add them to our list of factors impacting healthcare costs.
*Savings may vary. See RxSaver.com for details.