Copay Adjustment Programs: What’s Next for Manufacturers? [Weekly Roundup]

Copay Adjustment Programs: What’s Next for Manufacturers and other notes from around the interweb:

  • Copay Adjustment Programs: What’s Next for Manufacturers? The ongoing battle over controversial copay adjustment programs that shift more of the costs of specialty medications onto patients—otherwise known as accumulators and maximizers—continues to draw significant interest from the healthcare community. As payers and manufacturers clash over cost-shifting strategies while state and federal courts increasingly become involved, patients keep getting caught in the middle. Since these programs are designed to ensure that manufacturer copay assistance payments no longer count toward a patient’s deductible or out-of-pocket costs, the stakes are particularly high for manufacturers. With their assistance coupons restricted from counting toward their annual out-of-pocket maximums, patients are far more likely to stop taking their medications because they can no longer afford them.
  • Best Pharmacy Benefit Consultants for Cost-Effective Drug Plans. In the complex world of healthcare and pharmaceuticals, managing costs while ensuring the best possible care can be a daunting challenge for businesses of all sizes. Pharmacy Benefit Consultants (PBCs) play a crucial role in navigating this landscape, offering expertise that can lead to significant savings and more effective drug plan management. This article delves into the importance of PBCs, what to look for when selecting a consultant, and how they can transform the cost-effectiveness of drug plans.
  • 5 ways to improve your PBM procurement process in 2024. Many self-funded plan sponsors struggle to manage the cost of pharmacy benefits and rely on non-transparent contract guarantees to hold PBMs accountable. Meanwhile, drug spending continues to compound at an astonishing rate in defiance of the savings promised during the procurement process. As a former pharmacy program director for a plan covering more than 16,000 lives, I can tell you that it is possible to stop the “games” PBMs play, control costs, and ensure that all contractual guarantees are met, especially in scenarios where a PBM won’t guarantee an all-in per member per month (PMPM) cost for the year. Understanding the problem is a part of the solution, but making meaningful changes to the way plan sponsors and brokers evaluate PBMs is where the real opportunity lies.
  • 3 thing to know about specialty pharmacy in 2024. Specialty drugs may be covered by a medical benefit (what patient-members likely think of as “their insurance”) or pharmacy benefits. There’s often a gray area for where specialty falls, but it can relate to whether the drug is being administered in a clinical setting, like a doctor’s office, outpatient clinic, or infusion center. Reimbursement for these drugs can also vary between average wholesale price (AWP) for pharmacy reimbursement and average sales price (ASP) for the medical benefit. It’s complex to compare, and both ASP and AWP are used in the health care industry, but they’re different. ASP is a government-regulated tool that uses manufacturer sales information including discounts, such as rebates. AWP is the average price that wholesalers sell drugs to pharmacies, prescribers, and others. A government report found the median percentage difference between ASP and AWP to be 49%.

Weight Loss Drug Coverage Dilemma: Corporate Strategies and Healthcare Implications

In the evolving landscape of healthcare benefits, corporations find themselves at a crossroads, especially when it comes to covering weight loss medications like Wegovy. A recent development has seen Novo Nordisk, the pharmaceutical giant behind Wegovy, imposing penalties on employers who limit access to these expensive drugs, have led at least two major employers to discontinue their coverage, unveiling a weight loss drug coverage dilemma:

  • Increased Healthcare Costs: Employers face rising expenses in providing health benefits, driven by the excessive cost of weight loss medications.
  • Access and Affordability for Employees: Restricting or discontinuing coverage affects employees’ access to potentially life-changing treatments, raising questions about healthcare equity.
  • Negotiation Dynamics: The power struggle between pharmaceutical companies, PBMs, and employers over drug pricing and discounts reveals the complex negotiations that underpin healthcare benefits.
  • Corporate Responsibility and Employee Well-being: Companies must balance their financial constraints with their responsibility to support employees’ health and well-being.
  • Broader Healthcare Debate: This situation contributes to the ongoing debate about drug pricing, insurance coverage, and the right to healthcare, highlighting the need for systemic changes in how medications are priced and covered.

The crux of the matter lies in the negotiation dynamics between employers, Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs), and drug manufacturers. PBMs play a crucial role in negotiating drug prices, but their ability to secure discounts is being challenged by the manufacturer’s aggressive tactics. This situation leaves employers grappling with soaring healthcare costs, putting them in a difficult position: either absorb the excessive costs of these medications or face the manufacturer’s financial penalties.

Figure 1: Self-funded client request to project costs of including weight loss medications in their formulary.

The standoff has major implications for both companies and their health plans, as well as for employees dependent on these medications for their health. Despite a company’s financial resources, deciding whether to cover weight loss drugs remains a complex issue. Additionally, there’s a significant risk of fraud associated with GLP-1 weight loss medications. This concern arises from the potential for these drugs to be overprescribed, misused, or diverted, leading to unnecessary costs for companies without corresponding health benefits for users.

The bar chart (figure 1) could simplify this decision-making process regarding their inclusion in the formulary. I suggest holding off until prices decrease. Meanwhile, consider exploring other options such as diet and exercise. As corporations navigate this tricky terrain, the broader conversation about drug pricing, healthcare benefits, and corporate responsibility continues to evolve. This scenario underscores the complex interplay of financial, ethical, and healthcare considerations that companies must balance in the modern corporate landscape.

Unlocking the Value of Pharmacy Benefits: The Essential Qualities of a Top-Tier Consultant

A good pharmacy benefits consultant plays a vital role in guiding organizations through the complexities of pharmacy benefits management, aiming to optimize healthcare outcomes while controlling costs. Here are some key attributes and certifications that define a good pharmacy benefits consultant which are key to unlocking the value of pharmacy benefits:

  1. Expertise in Pharmacy Benefits Management (PBM): A deep understanding of how PBMs operate, including drug pricing, rebate management, benefit design, formulary, and utilization management, is crucial. This knowledge helps in negotiating contracts and ensuring that clients receive the best possible terms.
  2. Analytical Skills: The ability to analyze data effectively is essential. This includes interpreting drug utilization reports, identifying trends in prescription drug spending, and evaluating the financial impact of different pharmacy benefit strategies.
  3. Certifications: Relevant professional certifications can enhance a consultant’s credibility and expertise. Certifications such as the Certified Pharmacy Benefits Specialist (CPBS) or Certified Employee Benefit Specialist (CEBS) with a specialization in healthcare and benefits can demonstrate a consultant’s commitment to their profession and expertise in the field.
  4. Regulatory Knowledge: A thorough understanding of healthcare regulations, including the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Medicare, and Medicaid, as well as compliance issues related to pharmacy benefits, is important. This ensures that advice and strategies are compliant with current laws and regulations.
  5. Communication Skills: Effective communication and negotiation skills are vital. A good consultant must be able to explain complex pharmacy benefits concepts in understandable terms to clients and negotiate effectively with PBMs and drug manufacturers.
  6. Ethical Standards: High ethical standards and transparency are essential, particularly in areas such as rebate management and contract negotiations, to build trust with clients.
  7. Continuous Learning: The healthcare landscape, especially pharmacy benefits, is constantly changing. A good consultant stays updated with industry trends, new drugs, technologies, and regulatory changes to provide informed advice.
  8. Strategic Thinking: The ability to develop innovative and strategic solutions that align with the client’s healthcare goals and financial constraints is critical. This might involve designing custom formularies, implementing cost-saving measures, or leveraging technology to improve pharmacy benefits management.

In summary, a good pharmacy benefits consultant combines industry-specific knowledge and certifications with analytical, strategic, and communication skills, all underpinned by a commitment to ethical practice and continuous learning. These attributes enable them to play a critical role in unlocking the value of pharmacy benefits and delivering value to their clients, helping them to manage their pharmacy benefits effectively and efficiently.

Best Pharmacy Benefit Consultants for Cost-Effective Drug Plans [Weekly Roundup]

Best Pharmacy Benefit Consultants for Cost-Effective Drug Plans and other notes from around the interweb:

  • Best Pharmacy Benefit Consultants for Cost-Effective Drug Plans. In the complex world of healthcare and pharmaceuticals, managing costs while ensuring the best possible care can be a daunting challenge for businesses of all sizes. Pharmacy Benefit Consultants (PBCs) play a crucial role in navigating this landscape, offering expertise that can lead to significant savings and more effective drug plan management. This article delves into the importance of PBCs, what to look for when selecting a consultant, and how they can transform the cost-effectiveness of drug plans.
  • 5 ways to improve your PBM procurement process in 2024. Many self-funded plan sponsors struggle to manage the cost of pharmacy benefits and rely on non-transparent contract guarantees to hold PBMs accountable. Meanwhile, drug spending continues to compound at an astonishing rate in defiance of the savings promised during the procurement process. As a former pharmacy program director for a plan covering more than 16,000 lives, I can tell you that it is possible to stop the “games” PBMs play, control costs, and ensure that all contractual guarantees are met, especially in scenarios where a PBM won’t guarantee an all-in per member per month (PMPM) cost for the year. Understanding the problem is a part of the solution, but making meaningful changes to the way plan sponsors and brokers evaluate PBMs is where the real opportunity lies.
  • 3 thing to know about specialty pharmacy in 2024. Specialty drugs may be covered by a medical benefit (what patient-members likely think of as “their insurance”) or pharmacy benefits. There’s often a gray area for where specialty falls, but it can relate to whether the drug is being administered in a clinical setting, like a doctor’s office, outpatient clinic, or infusion center. Reimbursement for these drugs can also vary between average wholesale price (AWP) for pharmacy reimbursement and average sales price (ASP) for the medical benefit. It’s complex to compare, and both ASP and AWP are used in the health care industry, but they’re different. ASP is a government-regulated tool that uses manufacturer sales information including discounts, such as rebates. AWP is the average price that wholesalers sell drugs to pharmacies, prescribers, and others. A government report found the median percentage difference between ASP and AWP to be 49%.
  • Lawsuit alleges J&J health plan fiduciaries mismanaged prescription drug benefits. A lawsuit filed on February 5, 2024, against Johnson and Johnson and its health plan fiduciaries is a good reminder that the fiduciary duties that exist under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) do not just apply to qualified retirement plans. They apply to ERISA health and welfare plans, too. There is likely a very strong “rest of the story” to the allegations in this lawsuit and the defendants will no doubt vigorously dispute and defend this case, but the allegations in this new class action complaint give employers and their plan fiduciaries much to think about. Among the allegations in the proposed class action complaint, the plaintiff alleges that someone with a 90-pill prescription for one generic drug could fill that prescription without insurance for between $28.40 – $77.41, and yet, it alleges, the defendant fiduciaries contractually agreed to have the plan pay $10,239.69 for the same 90-pill prescription.

Breaking: Employees Hit Johnson & Johnson with a Major Lawsuit Over Sky-High Drug Costs

In this legal dispute, employees hit Johnson & Johnson with a major lawsuit. Ann Lewandowski and other plaintiffs are suing Johnson & Johnson for allegedly mismanaging their prescription-drug benefits, resulting in significant financial losses for participants in the company’s ERISA plans. The complaint asserts that Johnson & Johnson and its benefits committee failed in their fiduciary duties by allowing the plans to overpay for prescription drugs, notably generic medications, through arrangements with their Pharmacy Benefits Manager (PBM).

This purported mismanagement led to inflated costs for the plan participants, including higher premiums, deductibles, and out-of-pocket expenses, while potentially costing the plans and their beneficiaries millions of dollars. The case underscores the complex interplay of corporate practices, legal responsibilities, and the financial well-being of employees in the healthcare benefits landscape.

Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs) play a critical role in the healthcare system by acting as intermediaries between employers or health plans and the pharmaceutical world. Their primary functions include negotiating discounts with drug manufacturers, determining the list of covered medications (formulary management), and setting the amount pharmacies are reimbursed for drugs. PBMs aim to reduce prescription drug costs and improve convenience and safety for patients, but their practices and the transparency of their operations have been subjects of debate and scrutiny in the context of overall healthcare affordability and access.

Employers can mitigate the risk of litigation like the Johnson & Johnson case by investing in education around Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs), specifically through Certified Pharmacy Benefit Specialist (CPBS) training. CPBS training equips employers with comprehensive knowledge on how PBMs operate, strategies to ensure that their PBM contracts are cost-effective, and insights into maintaining transparency and accountability in their pharmacy benefits management. By understanding the intricacies of PBM operations and learning to navigate the complex healthcare landscape effectively, employers can safeguard against excessive prescription drug costs and ensure that their benefits plans are managed in the best interest of their employees.