Bills sponsored by Maine Sen. Susan Collins that ban “gag clauses” prohibiting pharmacists from telling consumers about the lowest prescription drug prices passed the House on Tuesday – after previously gaining Senate approval – and now will go to President Trump to sign.

Trump supports the measures and is expected to sign the bills, called the Patient Right to Know Drug Prices and the Know the Lowest Price Act. The bills passed the House by voice vote.

The bills were bipartisan, and in addition to Collins were authored by Democratic Sens. Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, and Republican Sens. John Barrasso of Wyoming and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana.

“Gag clauses” have become more common in recent years and prohibit pharmacists from informing patients that paying out-of-pocket in some cases would be cheaper than using their health benefits.

“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,” Collins said in a statement. “Who would think that using your debit card to buy your prescription drugs would be less expensive than using your insurance card? It’s counterintuitive. Americans have the right to know which payment method provides the most savings when purchasing their prescription drugs.”

The “gag clauses” are written into contracts with pharmacists by insurance companies or pharmacy benefit managers.

Pharmacy benefit managers are middlemen whom insurers pay to set up a list – called a formulary – of what drugs are covered by the health insurance plan. The formularies are designed to save money but can have unintended consequences.

Pharmacy benefit managers have existed for many years, but the changing nature of health insurance benefits – where patients are now shouldering more of the cost of prescription drugs – has brought drug pricing into the forefront.

The bills cover private insurance as well as Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D plans.

“I am delighted that our legislation to lower the cost of prescription drugs and save consumers money received overwhelming bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate, and I look forward to it being signed into law,” Collins said in a statement.

Trump, in a tweet before the Senate passed the bills this month, said that “Americans deserve to know the lowest drug price at their pharmacy, but ‘gag clauses’ prevent your pharmacist from telling you! I support legislation that will remove gag clauses.”

filed under: