Walmart cheaper than Medicare for drugs 21% of time, Yale study finds

Medicare patients could often spend less on prescriptions filled through Walmart's generic drug discount program than through their own insurance plan, according to research from New Haven, Conn.-based Yale School of Medicine.

Researchers found Walmart's generic drug discount program — which charges patients $4 for a 30-day supply of a generic drug — is cheaper than Medicare 21 percent of the time. The analysis is based on Walmart's generic list from September 2017. Researchers identified 27 generic medications on the list for seven common cardiovascular disease conditions, including hypertension, diabetes and atrial fibrillation. They then identified the out-of-pocket spending for the lowest priced dose of each drug in more than 2,000 Medicare prescription drug plans, across both Medicare Advantage and standalone plans.

Surprisingly, the Medicare Advantage prescription drug plans were consistently found to be more expensive than the standalone plans. The researchers note this is "a counterintuitive finding," as Medicare Advantage plans can spread risk across acute care, outpatient services and other healthcare expenses in addition to drugs.  

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