Slotkin urges Michiganders to compare prices before buying prescription drugs

prescription drugs

(Photo Illustration/Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

By Kyle Kaminski

April 25, 2024

A law sponsored by Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin is helping patients compare prices for different prescription drugs at different pharmacies—saving some thousands of dollars.

MICHIGAN—US Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Michigan) said there’s only one thing that Americans are often asked to buy where they don’t know the price tag until they get up to the checkout counter.

And that’s prescription drugs.

“Everything else, whether it’s a car or a gallon of milk, you can comparison shop and then make an educated decision,” Slotkin told a group of older Michiganders during a roundtable discussion in Lansing on Wednesday. “It’s as American as apple pie to comparison shop.”

But as Slotkin and her team started to look into what was preventing Americans from accessing real-time pricing information about drugs in 2019, she reached a startling conclusion:

“It became clear that that was on purpose—that the companies liked the fact that it was difficult for you to comparison shop, because then they basically had you over a barrel and you were going to pay whatever they put forward as the price on your drugs,” Slotkin explained this week.

That’s why Slotkin co-sponsored legislation in 2019, which essentially forced the pharmaceutical industry into a new era of transparency. And now about four years after being signed into law, tens of millions of Americans—including about 1.8 million Michiganders—now have guaranteed access to real-time information about prescription drug costs before they visit the pharmacy.

Under Slotkin’s Real-Time Benefits Act, all Medicare Part D plans are now required to integrate a new, electronic search tool that delivers prescription drug cost information to prescribers.

As of last summer, millions of patients are now able to compare prices for different brands (and at different pharmacies) before they even leave their doctor’s office. Slotkin said all patients enrolled in Medicare Part D should now have access to the feature directly through their insurer.

And in recent months, Slotkin said dozens of insurance companies—like Humana and Blue Cross Blue Shield—have voluntarily rolled out the new search tool for all patients, even if they aren’t one of the 1.8 million Michiganders who are currently enrolled in a Medicare Part D plan.

“The tools give you more price transparency, so you know where to shop,” Slotkin explained this week. “It knows it gives you whether there are generic alternatives to what your doctor is prescribing, and it encourages that good, old-fashioned American competition.”

Slotkin said she was motivated to introduce the legislation following a “groundswell” of complaints from Michiganders who were fed up with the rising cost of prescription drugs, and the lack of transparent pricing information that was available to patients in need of medication.

This week’s event in Lansing was designed to spread awareness of the new search tool—namely because too few Michiganders know the price comparison tools exist, Slotkin said.

READ MORE: Republicans vow to gut health insurance for 1.3 million Michiganders

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Author

  • Kyle Kaminski

    Kyle Kaminski is an award-winning investigative journalist with more than a decade of experience covering news across Michigan. Prior to joining The ‘Gander, Kyle worked as the managing editor at City Pulse in Lansing and as a reporter for the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

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