The Employer's Guide Blog for Overseeing PBMs

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Tip of the Week: Smaller PBMs Grade Higher on Customer Satisfaction

A newly released survey finds that plan sponsors’ overall satisfaction with their PBMs is relatively high. But Pharmaceutical Strategies Group’s 2020 Pharmacy Benefit Manager Customer Satisfaction Report also reveals that customer satisfaction of PBMs varies depending on the firms’ size and the type of client being served.

Key takeaways from the 2020 PBM Customer Satisfaction Report include:

  • 90 percent of respondents feel their PBM financial relationship is somewhat/completely transparent
  • Likelihood to renew their PBM contract averaged 8.0 on a 10-point scale
  • Highest-rated core PBM function is retail network options
  • Highest-rated noncore PBM function is the account team acts as a strategic advisor
  • Highest-rated specialty management function is customer service for patients using specialty medications
  • Highest-rated PBM service dimension tied between meets financial guarantees and PBM staffing adequate to meet customer needs

“The size of the PBM does make a difference, often in the services that are provided because of scale. It also makes a difference in the types of customers who choose a PBM — so many customers are looking to middle-market, midsized PBMs for more flexibility, where others look to the larger PBMs for perhaps deeper discounts,” Sharon Phares, Ph.D., senior vice president of research and data innovation at Pharmaceutical Strategies Group, said during a May 25 webinar to discuss the survey’s findings.

Tyrone’s Commentary:

I asked one of our broker partners last week a simple question. Mind you this broker does business with all types of PBMs large, mid-size and small. The question was simply, “do any of the other PBMs you work with beat TransparentRx on price.” His answer, “no.” His response was matter of fact there was no fluff. What matters more than a PBM’s size is whether or not it is aligned philosophically to its clients desire for radical transparency. It is a myth to say that large PBMs offer deeper discounts. What they often times offer is the illusion of deeper discounts. You can’t have ‘deeper’ discounts and little to no transparency, for instance. It doesn’t work that way in this business not by a long shot.

In general, “PBMs with 20 million or fewer members tend to have higher satisfaction ratings than larger PBMs,” Phares said, attributing the difference to both “customers with different needs and expectations from their PBM” and “the services provided by the PBM itself.”

Tyrone Squires, MBA, CPBS

I am the proud founder and managing director of TransparentRx, a fiduciary-model PBM based in Las Vegas, Nevada. We help health plan sponsors reduce pharmacy spend, by as much as 50%, without cutting benefits or shifting costs to employees.

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