Congressman Greg Walden

Representing the 2nd District of Oregon

Walden highlights legislation to reduce drug prices and increase control for patients

September 5, 2018
Press Release

Walden highlights legislation to reduce drug prices and increase control for patients

Bill to prohibit so-called “gag clauses” that limit pricing option disclosure to patients is moving through Walden’s committee

Click here or on the image above to view Walden’s remarks

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Continuing his efforts to reduce drug prices and increase control for patients in Oregon and across the country, Representative Greg Walden (R-Hood River) today highlighted bipartisan legislation that would make important progress toward that goal. Walden, who chairs the Energy and Commerce Committee, said his committee is moving forward with a bill that would prohibit the use of so-called “gag clauses,” which limit the disclosure of lower pricing options available to patients purchasing prescription medications.

“The Energy and Commerce Committee is working on legislation that would ban ‘gag clauses’,” said Walden. “This was first brought to my attention from a pharmacist from Grants Pass, Michele. She told me that as a pharmacist she was precluded -- under certain insurance contracts -- from telling consumers that if they simply paid for their drugs out of pocket, it would actually be cheaper than paying through their insurance plan and the deductible. These gag clauses have no business in an open and free marketplace and the Committee on Energy and Commerce, which I lead, will be moving legislation forward to get rid of them.”

“Gag clauses are an unnecessary restriction on our ability as pharmacists to communicate with our patients," said Michele Belcher, owner and pharmacist at Grants Pass Pharmacy, and board member of the National Community Pharmacists Association. "I once received a cease and desist letter for trying to help a child with a terminal disease access his medication. That should never happen. I applaud Representative Walden for taking this issue on.”

It has been widely reported that some health insurance contracts prevent pharmacists from informing patients when the cash price for their prescription costs less than their insurance cost-sharing arrangement unless the individual directly asks. As a result, consumers may be paying more for their prescriptions than is warranted.

The legislation aims to ban group health plans offered by employers and individual health insurance plans -- as well as Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D Plans -- from restricting a pharmacy’s ability to inform a customer about the lower cost, out-of-pocket price for their prescription.

Walden’s Energy and Commerce Committee today held a hearing to examine the legislation before the committee’s health panel. During the hearing, Walden further highlighted the bill’s potential to give patients more information about their pricing options for prescription medications.

“Many patients who are struggling to afford costly prescription drug prices may not know that paying for their medications with cash can sometimes be cheaper than using their health insurance.  What’s worse is some contracts prohibit pharmacists from telling their customers when this is the case,” said Walden during the hearing. “Banning these so-called ‘gag clauses’ has gained tremendous bipartisan support, with bills in both the Senate Finance and Senate HELP committees advancing without objection.”

For additional information on the legislation, including a background memo and archived webcast from today’s hearing, please click here.