Monday, October 15, 2018

Another big PBM has confirmed it's primary objective isn't to contain prescription drug costs

It is no secret that non-fiduciary pharmacy benefit managers will generally rely on the demands of clients, both current and prospective, for the level of transparency and disclosure it will provide. Express Scripts confirmed as much in the 60 minutes episode The Problem with Prescription Drug Prices by stating and I quote, "it is not contractually obligated to contain costs." If you haven't watched the 60 minutes episode you can read the transcript here.

Now CVS Health has admitted as much as well. In its Q2 2018 earnings call CVS Health writes, "We underwrite contracts to overall level of profitability and many levers available to pull, depending upon the preferences of the client." In layman's terms here is what that means...

CVS HEALTH WILL GENERATE AS MUCH REVENUE AS POSSIBLE AND HOW MUCH WE ARE ABLE TO GENERATE WILL DEPEND LARGELY ON HOW SOPHISTICATED OR UNSOPHISTICATED OUR CLIENTS MIGHT BE.

Non-fiduciary PBMs are couting on two things from self-insured employers:

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Reference Pricing: "Gross" Invoice Cost for Popular Generic and Brand Prescription Drugs (Volume 240)

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.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Reference Pricing: "Gross" Invoice Cost for Popular Generic and Brand Prescription Drugs (Volume 239)

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.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

A Tough Negotiator Proves Employers Can Bargain Down Health Care Prices

Radical transparency in pharmacy benefits management
starts with training and education. Click here to begin yours.
Marilyn Bartlett took a deep breath, drew herself up to her full 5 feet and a smidge, and told the assembled handful of Montana officials that she had a radical strategy to bail out the state's foundering benefit plan for its 30,000 employees and their families.

The officials were listening. Their health plan was going broke, with losses that could top $50 million in just a few years. It needed a savior, but none of the applicants to be its new administrator had wowed them.

Now here was a self-described pushy 64-year-old grandmother interviewing for the job. Bartlett came with some unique qualifications. She'd just spent 13 years on the insurance industry side, first as a controller for a Blue Cross Blue Shield plan, then as the chief financial officer for a company that administered benefits. She was a potent combination of irreverent and nerdy, a certified public accountant whose Smart car's license plate reads "DR CR," the Latin abbreviations for "debit" and "credit."

Tyrone's Takeaways:

1)  Self-funded employers don't know what they don't know thus put too much trust in those who purport to have "the" solution but are really most interested in padding their own pockets.

2)  If you're a plan sponsor, get someone on your side who puts you first contractually not just lip service. This person must also have P&L responsibility experience from the other side (i.e. health plan, PBM or drugmaker) or at the very least trained by someone who has the requisite qualifications.

3)  Don't settle for anything less than radical transparency, Marilyn didn't.

4)  The more sophisticated you are as a purchaser the less you pay without cutting benefits to employees or raising their cost share. 

5) A co-op or coalition aren't always the better deal. They often leverage the purchasing power of members for their own financial advantage.

6) I would like to buy Marilyn Bartlett a beer. Marilyn if you're reading this call a brotha!

Health plans contract with separate companies, middlemen entities known as pharmacy benefit managers, to get members their medication. And everyone assured Bartlett the state's pharmacy benefits deal was "state of the art." But just like with Cigna, she insisted on examining it herself.

That wasn't easy because the pharmacy benefits were run through a cooperative arrangement with other health plans, including those of universities, school trusts and counties. The state plan anchored the co-op, and the other partners were happy with the arrangement.

Bartlett knew that pharmacy benefit managers are notorious for including deals that boost their profits at the expense of employers. One of the common tricks is called the "spread." A pharmacy benefit manager, for example, will tell an employer it cost $100 to fill a prescription that actually cost $60, allowing the pharmacy benefit manager to pocket the extra $40. The fine print in the contracts often allows it.

The spread is widespread. A recent report by the Ohio state auditor noted that the spread on generic drugs had cost that state's Medicaid plan $208 million in a single year — 31 percent of what it spent.

Sure enough, when she got the contract, Bartlett found that the state plan had fallen victim to the spread.

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