Some pharmacies may have conflict of interest with Medicare

Customer picks up prescription at a pharmacy

TEXT OF STORY

JEREMY HOBSON: The nation's 46 and a half million Medicare beneficiaries only have until the end of the year to switch drug plans. Seniors often turn to their pharmacists for advice. But some pharmacy chains may have a conflict of interest.

As Marketplace's Nancy Marshall Genzer reports.


Nancy Marshall Genzer: Sometimes, insurance companies make deals with pharmacies. Drug stores are rewarded for steering seniors to certain Medicare drug plans. But their customers don't know that. So they may not be getting unbiased advice when they ask their pharmacist to recommend a plan. Wendell Potter is a former insurance executive turned consumer advocate.

Wendell Potter: So it's very important to know that these relationships exist. Sometimes they can even be to the advantage of the Medicare beneficiary.

Or not. Walgreens has been accused by insurance company Humana of listing inflated drug prices on a website. The site was supposed to help consumers compare plans. Walgreens has since taken it down. Small, independent pharmacists are touting themselves as honest brokers. Kathleen Jaeger is CEO of the National Community Pharmacists Association.

Kathleen Jaeger: They know the medical history, and if provided the patient tells the pharmacist, they certainly know their medication history.

But even Jaeger says read the fine print before you sign up for a Medicare drug plan. You can compare them at Medicare.gov.

In Washington, I'm Nancy Marshall Genzer for Marketplace.

About the author

Nancy Marshall-Genzer is a senior reporter for Marketplace based in Washington, D.C. covering daily news.

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