The 50 Percent Cost-Cutting Tip Your Pharmacist Can’t Share

prescription drug prices
Photo by aleks333 / Shutterstock.com

For years I’ve been paying cash for certain prescription drugs, even when I have health insurance. This simple trick has saved me 50 percent or more — but you’re unlikely to hear about it at your pharmacy.

Pharmacists are often barred from telling customers that a drug would be cheaper if they paid out of pocket — also referred to as paying cash — instead of going through their health insurance.

Gag clauses

At issue are gag clauses in contracts between pharmacies and drug benefit managers, as The New York Times detailed recently:

“The clauses force the pharmacists to remain silent as, for example, a consumer pays $125 under her insurance plan for an influenza drug that would have cost $100 if purchased with cash. Much of the difference often goes to the drug benefit managers.”

Drug benefit managers, as their name suggests, are companies that manage drug benefits on behalf of health insurance companies and employers. That entails negotiating prices with pharmacies and drug manufacturers, making benefit managers powerful middlemen of sorts.

In a Senate Health Committee hearing in December, Norman Augustine, chairman of the nonprofit National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine’s Committee on Ensuring Patient Access to Affordable Drug Therapies, testified that a lack of transparency is at issue:

“The fact is that people don’t know what is in the agreements that are made between, for example, the drug companies and those in the supply chain, so most people will never even know that a gag clause is there today.”

Fighting high drug prices

The New York Times notes that some states have passed or are working on legislation to block gag clauses, and some federal lawmakers are looking into addressing gag clauses. So, you might want to contact your senators and House representatives to voice your opinion on the matter.

In the meantime, though, you can get around gag clauses on your own. If you buy any prescriptions through your insurance — likely meaning you pay a predetermined copay for them — pick up the phone and ask your pharmacy for its cash prices for those drugs.

Better yet, call around to a few pharmacies. Cash prices can vary widely between traditional pharmacy chains and pharmacies located in big-box and warehouse stores, for example.

What’s your take on this news? Sound off below or on our Facebook page.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
7 Secret Perks of Individual Retirement Accounts
7 Secret Perks of Individual Retirement Accounts

IRAs come with bells and whistles that many other accounts lack — including some perks you may not know exist.

It’s Worth Paying Extra for These 14 Items
It’s Worth Paying Extra for These 14 Items

Here’s where to find the sweet spot at the intersection of price and quality.

3 Costly Social Security Mistakes That Women Make
3 Costly Social Security Mistakes That Women Make

Women face unique challenges when planning for retirement and making these mistakes can result in a skimpier retirement.

3 Ways to Downsize Your Life to Save Money, Time and Stress
3 Ways to Downsize Your Life to Save Money, Time and Stress

Downsizing can cut the bloat in your finances — and give you more free time and less stress.

8 Common and Costly Homebuying Myths
8 Common and Costly Homebuying Myths

Think you’re ready to buy a house? Don’t fall victim to these rookie mistakes.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
10 Things Frugal People Never Buy
10 Things Frugal People Never Buy

If you’re a true tightwad, the mere thought of spending money on these items gives you the willies.

10 Useless Purchases You Need to Stop Making
10 Useless Purchases You Need to Stop Making

You might as well flush your money down the loo if you spend it on these things.

7 Social Security Rules Everyone Should Know by Now
7 Social Security Rules Everyone Should Know by Now

Confusion over Social Security is a shame, considering how many of us will need this money badly.

If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It
If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It

They don’t make coffee makers like this anymore.

7 Social Security Benefits You May Be Overlooking
7 Social Security Benefits You May Be Overlooking

There’s more to Social Security than retirement benefits.

9 Shopping Mistakes to Avoid at Costco
9 Shopping Mistakes to Avoid at Costco

Are you missing out on serious savings at your favorite warehouse club?

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

14 Things You Should Stop Buying in 2021
14 Things You Should Stop Buying in 2021

These convenient household products come with hidden costs that you might not have considered.

Is Writing a Check Still Safe?
Is Writing a Check Still Safe?

Every time you pay by check, you hand your bank account numbers to a stranger.

8 Things You Should Replace to Improve Your Life Today
8 Things You Should Replace to Improve Your Life Today

Being frugal isn’t smart if you put off replacing these items.

6 Ways to Protect Your Retirement Accounts From Hackers
6 Ways to Protect Your Retirement Accounts From Hackers

Imagine having $245,000 stolen from your retirement account — and not being reimbursed.

The 6 Best Investing Apps for Beginners
The 6 Best Investing Apps for Beginners

If you’re looking to ease into investing in the coronavirus economy with just a little money, check out these easy-to-use tools.

This Is the Most Dependable Car Brand in the U.S.
This Is the Most Dependable Car Brand in the U.S.

This brand’s vehicles are least likely to give drivers repair headaches, according to J.D. Power.

10 Deep Discounts Available on Amazon This Friday
10 Deep Discounts Available on Amazon This Friday

These items are all steeply discounted — but the deals won’t last long.

7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco

Even if it seems you save a bundle buying Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand products, they may not be the bargain they appear to be.

13 Amazon Purchases We Are Loving Right Now
13 Amazon Purchases We Are Loving Right Now

These practical products make everyday life a little easier.

7 Income Tax Breaks That Retirees Often Overlook
7 Income Tax Breaks That Retirees Often Overlook

Did you realize all these tax credits and deductions exist — or that they apply to retirees?

7 Hidden Sections of Amazon Every Shopper Should Know
7 Hidden Sections of Amazon Every Shopper Should Know

These little-known departments of Amazon are gold mines for deal-seekers and impulse shoppers alike.

7 Costly Health Problems That Strike After Age 50
7 Costly Health Problems That Strike After Age 50

As we age, our bodies wear down. Here is how to cut costs associated with some common ailments.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.