Consumer Reports looks into prescription pricing problems across the country

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Drugs costs vary widely, even for Medicare recipients, possible costing seniors hundreds, even thousands of dollars.

That's the result of a recent Consumer Reports investigation, a report so eye-opening, the Senate invited a Consumer Reports investigative reporter to Capitol Hill to testify about the vast prescription pricing problems.

"We found that what a consumer could pay for their medications could vary by hundreds of dollars," said Lisa Gill, Consumer Reports Investigative Reporter.

Even in the same city. Consumer Reports' investigation looked at six cities, including Dallas (but not in California), where it found a person there enrolled in a low-cost 100-dollar deductible Medicare Part D plan would end up paying an annual cost of $1,592.

But another plan in the area with a 415-dollar deductible would have a total annual cost of just 574-dollars. Consumer Reports found stark price differences in all six cities.

"And worse, even small mistakes during the sign-up process could cost a consumer a tremendous amount of money," Gill said.

Why? In 2018, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services gave insurers more flexibility when designing prescription drug plans.

RELATED: Consumer Reports: How to save money on prescriptions

The change was supposed to give consumers more options, but it backfired -- the plans ended up being so complex, making comparison price shopping difficult.

"The medicare-dot-gov plan finder tool is very difficult, not only to use, but also to compare plans against one another," Gill said.

"Increasingly more and more seniors we see are needing to choose between prescription drugs or their other payments for just surviving," Senator Martha McSally (R).

Consumer Reports' analysis also found that the price of drugs can differ dramatically among drugstores.

RELATED: Consumer Reports warns against mixing medications with alcohol

In Denver, the total cost of five generic drugs at a chain brand drug store was 1,687-dollars through a Silver Script plan. About four miles away, at an independent pharmacy, the same five drugs with the same plan would cost 688-dollars -- almost one thousand dollars less!

"We've got to be putting patients first and that means putting an end to the greedy practices of insurance companies that are leaving patients without the insurance they thought they had," said Senator Elizabeth Warren (D).

Here is a link to Consumer Reports' story on prescription pricing.

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