BILLINGS — It’s expensive to live life in America and the cost is only going higher, with people seeing the effects of inflation at the gas pump and grocery store. Inflation is also hitting an industry you don’t normally think of: healthcare.
Kyle Austin owns Pharm 406, a local pharmacy in Billings. He said insurance companies are also feeling the brunt of inflation, and passing the buck off to the consumer.
“A lot of insurance companies are feeling it. So they are actually undercutting us on reimbursements. The insurance companies are tightening their belts. They are not paying for prescriptions like they should be. They’re not paying the pharmacy 100 percent of the costs. So they’re actually undercutting us from their end because of the inflation," Austin told MTN News on Sunday.
According to the drug coupon service GoodRx, the price of prescription drugs has increased by an average of 4.6 percent since last year. It reports that between this year and last, a list of 832 generic and name brand drugs have seen an increase in price.
“Health care is right in the middle of inflation. Health care is right in the middle of the politics. Health care is right in the middle of the insurance companies," Austin said.
And the COVID-19 pandemic might not yet be done wreaking havoc in health care. Much of the prescription drugs in the U.S. are imported from factories in Europe and Asia and they’re still struggling with supply chain problems.
“Health care is going to be affected for a while. In the United States, obviously we’ve come out of it. We’re moving forward, but when we’re involved in world economics, where do your supplies come from? When they come from overseas, that economy will affect how we do business here in the United States," Austin said.
To help save his customers a bit of money and time, Austin is trying something new and will offer to let people buy a years worth of their prescriptions at the cost of production. The deal will only be offered in the month of April.
“Being a community pharmacy, I can step back and say, ‘lets do this for one month and let people take advantage of it.’ It’s kind of like a community service. What we’re doing is a community service. If we were to actually make money off of it and offer it year round, we would do it year round, but there’s no way we could do that," Austin said.
Austin said the deal can not be combined with any other insurance or discount program. Payments made by credit or debit card will have a processing fee added, he said.