When you buy prescriptions, you probably assume, if you use insurance, the copay will be cheaper than if you pay out of pocket.
But Action 9 found that's not always the case. Sometimes, you could be paying more.
"It's more likely to happen with smaller plans, the high-deductible plans, or also other plans that are sort of low-end, skinny coverage kinds of plans," UNC Charlotte professor Michael Thompson said.
It's all based on contracts between insurers, pharmacies, and middlemen, none of whom are eager to discuss the issue. One pharmacist agreed to speak with Channel 9, as long as he didn't have to show his face on camera.
"The way things work with big chains is that they take whatever the copay is. Let's say you had a $10 copay for generic drugs, the chain would charge you the $10. The price may be $4 if you walk up, but that's just how the contracts are written," he said.
Even worse, some pharmacists aren't allowed to stop you from overpaying. Their contracts include gag clauses that keep you in the dark.
"I feel like that's legalized robbery," Jennifer Ritchie said.
Ritchie and her husband have health insurance. He had a liver transplant and takes multiple medicines each day, including anti-rejection drugs.
"It's just being a human and being nice to somebody and do the right thing and lay your head down at night, sleep better that you shared with somebody, 'Hey, you could get this cheaper this way,’” Ritchie said.
Some states are outlawing these gag clauses. North Carolina was one of the first. South Carolina doesn't, but is considering it.
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