Health Insurance Matters: Tweet Tweet

Health Insurance Matters / Harry P. Thal

Most Americans, and I am included, are embarrassed over the tweets our president makes. They are the laughingstock of many people around the world. On a recent trip, many foreigners brought this up in conversation. All kidding aside, President Trump’s tweets did some good.

Last Monday, Pfizer Pharmaceuticals released an announcement that they were raising their prices.

Last Tuesday, the president tweeted a blistering tweet about Pfizer increasing its prices on 40 medications by 10 percent. This included Viagra, the cholesterol drug Lipitor and arthritis drug Xeljanz. The president concluded his tweet with “We will respond!”

Then Pfizer did respond the next day with an announcement that they would delay the increase for six months. Newsmax reported: ”Pfizer Rolling Back Drug Price Hikes After Talk With Trump.” The first paragraph: “President Donald Trump on Tuesday said Pfizer Inc was rolling back drug prices after he spoke with Pfizer’s chief executive officer and U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.”

Why is it that the media reports all the negatives about Trump, but when there is something good to say, it is overlooked?

“’We applaud Pfizer for this decision and desire other companies to do the same,’ Trump said in a tweet.’”
Kind of a “retreat retweet,” don’t you think?

“Trump rolled out a blueprint in May that laid out how the administration planned to lower drug prices, a top campaign promise. Trump had said in May that some drug companies would announce ‘voluntary, massive’ price decreases in two weeks, but not have materialized yet.”

(Thanks go to both the president’s tweet and Pfizer’s response, otherwise this matter would have gone unknown.)

In the meantime, Axios’ Bob Herman reported that in the first half of 2018, drug companies raised the prices of 43 generic drugs by at least ten percent, according to an analysis from the investment bank Barclay’s. “Drug makers aren’t just hiking prices on brand-name products, the increases are pretty much across the board and include generics that have been around for decades.”

One of my favorite resources for drug information is www.goodrx.com. They have a blog with exceptionally good information. Their analysis of 500 commonly used drugs showed prices paid at pharmacies vary substantially, even between similar metropolitan areas in the same state. The study found that the diabetes drug metformin costs $11.16 in Columbus, Ohio and $66.23 in New York; influenza drug Tamiflu cost $144.46 in New York and $201.61 in San Francisco.”

I hope the insurance companies don’t use this data to influence the tier levels of their 2019 drug formularies.

My staff and I review the Medicare drug plans for each of our clients and others annually. Last year we saved out clientele $755,452.70 just by recommending they switch from the plan they are on to one which will have lower pharmacy costs. Same pill, same drug store. Insurance plans change annually.

Harry P. Thal, MA, is a licensed insurance broker in California (0621106) and 24 other states. His offices are in Kernville. He is a member of the Society of Certified Senior Advisors and Past-President of the Kern Association of Health Underwriters. He may be reached at 760-376-2100, e-mail harrythal@aol.com or visit him on the web at www.harrythal.com.