Slotkin’s Bill to Lower Prescription Drug Costs Passes House with Broad Bipartisan Support
WASHINGTON -- U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin’s (MI-08) bipartisan Real-Time Benefits Act passed the U.S. House of Representatives today with broad bipartisan support, representing an important achievement on Slotkin’s top priority to work to lower the cost of prescription drugs. Slotkin’s Real-Time Benefits Act, which passed as part of H.R. 2115, the Public Disclosure of Drug Discounts Act would help lower out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs by giving patients and doctors real-time updates on the price of prescription drugs, before they leave the doctor’s office. By increasing price transparency, the bill also encourages competition to help bring drug costs down across the board.
Right now, not only are cheaper alternatives for the same drug often available, but different pharmacies often charge different prices for the same drug. It is often difficult for health care providers and patients to know ahead of time how much the patient will ultimately pay for the prescription. This means that patients could be paying significantly more out of pocket, when they could have had access to a cheaper drug all along. In fact, nearly 1 in 5 Americans report that they have not filled a prescription due to its cost.
“The bill started with a very simple request from seniors in my district — people want to know how much a prescription will cost before they pick it up at the drugstore and they deserve to know that it's the best possible price that they can get,” Slotkin said in remarks on the House floor today. “This bill does that very thing: It provides Medicare patients with the information they need about the cost of a prescription, whether there are generic alternatives, as well as the best pharmacy for the best deal before they even leave the doctor's office.”
“Here's how it works: Insurers would be required to provide information to a common system, a ‘real-time’ benefits tool, which doctors would access through their electronic prescribing program,” Slotkin continued. “Doctors and patients could then sit together and receive real-time updates right in the doctor's office on the price of the drug based on the patient's insurance plan as well as the price of any other cheaper drugs available.”
“Imagine if every time you went to the doctor, both you and your physician could see the differences in the prices of drugs. This is the all-American competition we need when it comes to our prescription drugs,” Slotkin added.
“To be clear, the cost of prescription drugs is the number one issue I get asked about in my district. People come up to me in the grocery store, they grab my arm, they ask me why their medication has increased by 200 percent in cost in the past five years. Democrats and Republicans have both said the right things about the costs of prescription drugs. They have talked the talk. They now must walk the walk. I'm incredibly proud to have brought forth this bipartisan legislation tonight,” Slotkin finished.
The Real-Time Benefits Act ensures that the patient know the out-of-pocket cost of the drug before they leave the doctor’s office by:
- Requiring Medicare Part D plans to integrate an electronic real-time benefit tool into all e-prescribing systems to deliver real-time information to prescribers while the patient is still in the office. The tool takes into account patients’ insurance plan and displays out-of-pocket costs for a comprehensive list of clinically appropriate alternatives.
- Requiring that plans display out-of-pocket costs for the same medication at a variety of nearby pharmacies, which allows the physician to advise the patient on where to get the lowest cost possible for their prescriptions and save the patient from being “surprised” by any additional costs at the pharmacy, thus lowering the risk that the patient decides to opt out of picking up their prescriptions due to an unanticipated cost.
- Increased transparency in the cost of prescription drugs under individual insurance plans and the out-of-pocket price patients will be charged at different pharmacies may increase competition and help bring drug costs down across the board.
Lowering prescription drug prices has been a top priority of Slotkin’s since taking office. Slotkin, who founded constituent-led district advisory boards to help inform legislation that best addresses 8th district residents’ concerns, worked in direct consultation with her healthcare and seniors district advisory boards in crafting this bill to bring down out-of-pocket costs.