Two new laws aim to free pharmacists from the shackles of insurance companies so they can let consumers know when it makes more sense to pay cash for medication rather than run it through insurance.
Paying cash saves big bucks on some medications
It’s a penny-pinching secret you probably didn’t even know you had in your savings arsenal: Paying cash for prescriptions instead of using insurance can sometimes be cheaper!
We’ve told you before how — because of a variety of market circumstances — it’s possible to save upwards of hundreds of dollars on certain prescriptions when you pay for them out of your own pocket rather than using your insurance coverage.
In one particularly stark example, a couple who paid $285 through insurance for a 90-day supply of blood pressure drug telmisartan was able to pay around $40 cash for the same med in the same quantity at Costco by not using insurance!
So, what gives?
California leads the nation in protecting consumers
As amazing as that story sounds, one thing you’ve got to understand is the couple in question lives in California.
The Golden State has the nation’s strongest pro-consumer pharmacy laws. According to Consumer Reports, California pharmacists are not only allowed to tell a customer they’ll save more money by paying cash, they are actually required by law to do so!
Some two dozen other states — including Connecticut, Georgia, Indiana, North Dakota and Ohio — also allow pharmacists to tell you when cash is king, but those states don’t mandate it like California does.
However, the favorable treatment for pharmacy consumers in California doesn’t end there. State law also allows consumers to apply the money they pay in cash toward meeting their health insurance deductible.
New laws say goodbye to gag clauses
Of course, this doesn’t do any good for those of us who don’t live in California or one of those other states.
Both laws aim to clamp down on so-called “gag clauses” that insurers put in place on pharmacists, often through intermediaries known as pharmacy-benefits managers.
The goal of these gag clauses is to protect insurer and drug manufacturer profit margins when it might otherwise make more sense for a consumer to pay for a medication out-of-pocket.
Fortunately, there’s an easy way to know the cash price for medications at nearby pharmacies without having to pound the pavement or work the phones.
GoodRx lets you punch in the name of your prescription to find out the cash price in your area, which in turn allows you to make the best choice for your wallet and your health.