Plan Sponsors Laser Focused on High-Cost Claims

Of the health care initiatives large employers participating in the National Business Group on Health’s (NBGH) latest Health Care Strategy and Plan Design Survey cited, implementing virtual solutions (51%) and developing a more focused strategy to address high-cost claims (39%) were at the top of the list.

The cost of specialty medical treatments is escalating at an unsustainable rate—typically a double digit percent increase year-over-year. Even worse, large employers with self-funded plans are footing the bill for newer high-cost treatments, some in the millions per treatment. Employers have many concerns related to high-cost treatments: the million-dollar price tags and the speed at which the treatments come to market, which can call into question the rigor and timeline of clinical trials.

What’s more, an increasing focus of the research and development pipeline is on treatments for narrow subsets of patient populations with rare diseases—making this an exciting time in health care when patients with certain illnesses, sometimes terminal, are able to receive treatments or even be cured, the report notes.

Large Employers’ Top Health Care Initiatives, 2020

However, as a result of the pipeline of treatments for rare diseases, large employers are increasingly focused on the impact of even one or two cases on their overall annual health care budgets. For example, Zolgensma, a one-time injection to treat spinal muscular atrophy in young pediatric patients, was launched in May at a $2.1M price tag, sending employers into action mode to uncover ways to finance such therapies.

In 2019, about one-quarter of employers are delaying the inclusion of new treatments from their formulary at launch (e.g., for 6 months) to enable the pharmacy benefit manager (PBM) or health plan to better determine the treatment’s efficacy and safety. The other two options—stop-loss insurance and outcomes-based contracting—aren’t as popular an approach, but are being considered heavily for 2021/2022.

In 2018, a majority (56%) of large employers voiced skepticism about the proposed health plan–PBM mergers. Specifically, they were unsure if these newly formed relationships would lower cost, improve quality and curate a better consumer experience. As a followup to that survey question, this year’s survey dove into whether employers are “voting with their feet” by going out to bid in direct result of mergers between health plans and PBMs.

The survey finds 16% of surveyed employers are issuing a request-for-proposal (RFP) due to health plan–PBM mergers. Another 30% are considering doing so in 2021-2022. These numbers are an indication that consolidation is having a profound effect on the health care industry, which could result in a plan change—health plan or PBM—for a number of employers, the report says.

The full report is only available to NBGH members, but an executive summary of the findings is available here.

Reference Pricing: “Gross” Invoice Cost for Popular Generic and Brand Prescription Drugs (Volume 279)

This document is updated weekly, but why is it important? Healthcare marketers are aggressively pursuing new revenue streams to augment lower reimbursements provided under PPACA. Prescription drugs, particularly specialty, are key drivers in the growth strategies of PBMs, TPAs, and MCOs pursuant to health care reform.

The costs shared here are what the pharmacy actually pays; not AWP, MAC or WAC. The bottom line; payers must have access to actual acquisition costs or AAC. Apply this knowledge to hold PBMs accountable and lower plan expenditures for stakeholders.



How to Determine if Your Company [or Client] is Overpaying

Step #1:  Obtain a price list for generic prescription drugs from your broker, TPA, ASO or PBM every month.

Step #2:  In addition, request an electronic copy of all your prescription transactions (claims) for the billing cycle which coincides with the date of your price list.

Step #3:  Compare approximately 10 to 20 prescription claims against the price list to confirm contract agreement. It’s impractical to verify all claims, but 10 is a sample size large enough to extract some good assumptions.

Step #4:  Now take it one step further. Check what your organization has paid, for prescription drugs, against our acquisition costs then determine if a problem exists. When there is more than a 5% price differential for brand drugs or 25% (paid versus actual cost) for generic drugs we consider this a potential problem thus further investigation is warranted.

Multiple price differential discoveries mean that your organization or client is likely overpaying. REPEAT these steps once per month.

— Tip —

Always include a semi-annual market check in your PBM contract language. Market checks provide each payer the ability, during the contract, to determine if better pricing is available in the marketplace compared to what the client is currently receiving.

When better pricing is discovered the contract language should stipulate the client be indemnified. Do not allow the PBM to limit the market check language to a similar size client, benefit design and/or drug utilization. In this case, the market check language is effectually meaningless.

Reference Pricing: “Gross” Invoice Cost for Popular Generic and Brand Prescription Drugs (Volume 278)

This document is updated weekly, but why is it important? Healthcare marketers are aggressively pursuing new revenue streams to augment lower reimbursements provided under PPACA. Prescription drugs, particularly specialty, are key drivers in the growth strategies of PBMs, TPAs, and MCOs pursuant to health care reform.

The costs shared here are what the pharmacy actually pays; not AWP, MAC or WAC. The bottom line; payers must have access to actual acquisition costs or AAC. Apply this knowledge to hold PBMs accountable and lower plan expenditures for stakeholders.



How to Determine if Your Company [or Client] is Overpaying

Step #1:  Obtain a price list for generic prescription drugs from your broker, TPA, ASO or PBM every month.

Step #2:  In addition, request an electronic copy of all your prescription transactions (claims) for the billing cycle which coincides with the date of your price list.

Step #3:  Compare approximately 10 to 20 prescription claims against the price list to confirm contract agreement. It’s impractical to verify all claims, but 10 is a sample size large enough to extract some good assumptions.

Step #4:  Now take it one step further. Check what your organization has paid, for prescription drugs, against our acquisition costs then determine if a problem exists. When there is more than a 5% price differential for brand drugs or 25% (paid versus actual cost) for generic drugs we consider this a potential problem thus further investigation is warranted.

Multiple price differential discoveries mean that your organization or client is likely overpaying. REPEAT these steps once per month.

— Tip —

Always include a semi-annual market check in your PBM contract language. Market checks provide each payer the ability, during the contract, to determine if better pricing is available in the marketplace compared to what the client is currently receiving.

When better pricing is discovered the contract language should stipulate the client be indemnified. Do not allow the PBM to limit the market check language to a similar size client, benefit design and/or drug utilization. In this case, the market check language is effectually meaningless.