Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Self-funded employers have a corporate responsibility to understand MAC lists

PBMs with a traditional business model typically allow for price spread in exchange for reduced or eliminated administrative fees. It can generate a significant percentage of its revenue by retaining the spread from the MAC list. In some cases, this may be disclosed; however, plan sponsors are often not aware of how much revenue the traditional PBM retains. Auditing of this process is often very difficult.

With this method, the traditional model PBM uses an aggressive MAC price list to buy from their contracted pharmacies and a different, less aggressive list of prices when they sell to their clients. In essence, these PBMs buy low, and they sell high with their MAC price lists, marking up what they buy. The money derived from using multiple MAC lists goes into the pocket of the traditional PBM.

In contrast, a PBM with a radically transparent, pass-through business model does not keep the spread. Instead, this type of PBM uses one MAC list for all purposes: buying from the pharmacies and selling to the client, and then passing through the same drug cost, without markup, to the client. All discounts accrue directly to the benefit of the client (and member).

MAC prices are the upper limits that a plan will pay for generic drugs and brand drugs that have generic versions available (multi-source brands). Generic drugs often have a huge range of Average Wholesale Prices (AWPs), and the MAC prices are needed to reconcile the differences between an inflated AWP and the price the pharmacy actually pays.


Click to Learn More

No two MAC price lists are alike. In other words, every PBM tends to pick and choose products for their MAC lists, using different criteria to derive and apply prices to the lists. Common criteria for inclusion of products on MAC lists include:

  • It's a balancing act. The PBM's goal is to work on behalf of its clients and members, bringing the best value, without unduly creating unrest among pharmacies.
  • There are basically two ways the PBM can handle the MAC price list: 1) they can be self-serving and operate a MAC list to generate revenue for themselves or, 2) they can fully pass-through all MAC discounts directly to the client.

A radically transparent, pass-through PBM's only revenue source is an administrative fee that is typically calculated on a per paid claim or per-member, per-month (PMPM) basis. Any gains in pricing negotiated with pharmacy networks or pharmaceutical manufacturers are passed directly on to the client, at the beginning and throughout the course of the contract.

Be careful, PBMs can be transparent and still keep a spread using their MAC lists. Generally, pass-through pricing means that the PBM passes the discounts, rebates, other revenues and actual costs charged by the pharmacy or paid by a pharmaceutical company (in the form of rebates) directly on to the plan sponsor. In actual use, it can have various definitions according to the understanding of the parties. 

The term "pass-through" must be carefully defined in the contract in every instance it is used since there is no industry-accepted definition. A PBM may tell you that it will be transparent and pass-through, however, when presented with strict terms, the PBM may not be willing to abide by those terms. In summary, "transparent" PBMs are not necessarily "transparent pass-through" PBMs. While it may seem like a trivial distinction, it really isn't.

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Average Specialty Drug Price Reached $84,442 in 2020, Rising More Than Three Times Faster Than the Prices of Other Goods and Services [Weekly Roundup]

 News and notes from around the interweb:

  • Increasing Patient Adherence to Oral Chemo. With more than 115 oral agents approved by the FDA to manage different types of cancer, oral oncolytics “have solidified their place in cancer treatment,” a pharmacist said at the virtual 2021 ASHP Specialty Pharmacy Conference.

The Certified Pharmacy Benefits Specialist (CPBS) educational offering includes knowledge that is critical to effective management of the pharmacy and medical drug benefit. If you want to learn more, click here.

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Reference Pricing: "Gross" Invoice Cost vs. AWP for Popular Generic and Brand Prescription Drugs (Volume 384)

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.

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.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Tip of the Week: How Pharmacy Benefit Managers Make Money [On-Demand Video]

 A snapshot of what you will learn during this 30 minute webinar:

  • Hidden cash flows in the PBM Industry
  • Basic to intermediate level PBM terminologies
  • Specialty pharmacy cost-containment strategies
  • Examples of drugs that you might be covering that are costing you
  • The #1 metric to measure when evaluating PBM proposals



Sunday, October 10, 2021

Kansas audited its $80 million prescription plan, but it's still shrouded in mystery [Weekly Roundup]

 News and notes from around the interweb:

  • Kansas audited its $80 million CVS prescription plan, but it's still shrouded in mysteryKansas paid auditors $100,000 to dig into the more than $160 million it spent in 2018 and 2019 on prescription drugs for state employees, retirees and their families. But experts who follow the pharmaceutical industry say the resulting 16-page report doesn’t tell Kansas whether the health plan — or rather, the taxpayers and public employees who fund it — got a bargain or got gouged.
  • PBM Settles Two Pharmacy Benefit Probes for $71 Million. The settlements, announced on Thursday in statements from the attorneys general in Illinois and Arkansas, are related to claims the pharmacy benefit management business inflated drug costs. The company has resolved similar disputes with Ohio and Mississippi and has reserved $1.1 billion to cover the claims.

The Certified Pharmacy Benefits Specialist (CPBS) educational offering includes knowledge that is critical to effective management of the pharmacy and medical drug benefit. If you want to learn more, click here.

Thursday, October 7, 2021

Reference Pricing: "Gross" Invoice Cost vs. AWP for Popular Generic and Brand Prescription Drugs (Volume 383)

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.

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.

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Tip of the Week: Claims Repricings as the Primary Tool in Evaluating PBM Proposals is Like Buying a Used Car Without Ever Looking Under the Hood [Rerun]

I always stress the importance of PBM contract language. That the language (transparency or lack thereof) in the contract will have the biggest impact on PBM cost performance is clear. More specifically, whether or not a plan sponsor has entered into a fair deal or bad deal with a pharmacy benefits manager.

If you believe a claims repricing or spreadsheeting is the best way to evaluate PBM proposals, then I've probably lost you already. They have a place in the evaluation process but should not be the primary tool. Using spreadsheets as the primary tool in evaluating PBM proposals is like buying a car without ever looking under the hood! It is the equivalent of signing the sales agreement only to find out later the price didn't include an engine.

Spreadsheets are just easy and what most evaluators of PBM proposals are most comfortable with. They are numbers so it is simple to rank the results. Far too often the "lowest" cost wins and the better or more transparent deal is left in the cold. The truth is non-fiduciary PBMs have learned how to leverage the purchasing power of unsophisticated plan sponsors to their financial advantage. In other words, they give you the optics or what you want to see in exchange for what essentially equates to a blank check.

Click to Learn More

PBM contract language gives the purchaser a peek into the future as to what is really going to happen - after the plan goes live! A claims repricing, for example, provides a look into the past. Alone, a claims repricing is not a reliable indicator of what costs might be in the future. The contract dictates how a PBM should behave. A contract with radically transparent language prevents the PBM from taking a rent-seeking strategy. Proposals with opaque contract language should de discounted. 

Conversely, proposals with radically transparent contract language should be given a premium. Make sure your broker or consultant is an expert at scoring PBM contracts. Ask for samples of their contract scorecards and the methodology. That is step one. Step two is to make sure your consultant maintains a PBM contract management system. 

Many of those conversations I mentioned at the beginning, uncovered the broker or PBM consultant didn't know where their clients' contracts were located. Even more scary is they didn't know if the PBM would give them a copy. In our personal lives contracts reign supreme but when it comes to pharmacy benefits some stakeholders can't even find the darn thing. 

With so much at stake it belies professionalism. It's no wonder 90% of plan sponsors are overpaying to provide a pharmacy benefit to their employees. The one thing which matters most is being placed at the back of the line. Review your PBM contract periodically and make notes for concessions you want during renewal.

Saturday, October 2, 2021

How PBM “rebate walls” impact drug spending, patient care and competition [Weekly Roundup]

News and notes from around the interweb:
  • The Value of a Hub in a Limited Distribution Specialty Pharmacy Network. A hub can play an essential role in coordinating the specialty pharmacy limited distribution network. Although specialty pharmacies may be able to offer some of the services that a hub provider does, a hub can standardize patient and provider support across the network and coordinate referrals to ensure patients end up at their most appropriate destination.
  • PBM Settles Two Pharmacy Benefit Probes for $71 Million. The settlements, announced on Thursday in statements from the attorneys general in Illinois and Arkansas, are related to claims the pharmacy benefit management business inflated drug costs. The company has resolved similar disputes with Ohio and Mississippi and has reserved $1.1 billion to cover the claims.

The Certified Pharmacy Benefits Specialist (CPBS) educational offering includes knowledge that is critical to effective management of the pharmacy and medical drug benefit. If you want to learn more, click here.

Thursday, September 30, 2021

Reference Pricing: "Gross" Invoice Cost vs. AWP for Popular Generic and Brand Prescription Drugs (Volume 382)

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.

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.

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Tip of the Week: Specialty Drugs Have Taken Over (Rerun)

Specialty drugs used to be the novelty part of the drug spend: expensive, yes, but unusual. Ten years ago, specialty accounted for 15% to 20% of the money spent on drugs, but the CVS Caremark 2020 Drug Trend Report shows that specialty drugs accounted for more than half (52%) of the pharmacy spend last year. 

 Evernorth 2020 Drug Trend Report

The 2020 drug trend report from Evernorth (the new Cigna entity that Express Scripts is now part of) also showed that the spend on specialty drugs edged ahead of the spending on traditional medications (50.8% versus 49.2%).

Tyrone's Commentary:

1) It's more important than ever to drive high generic drug utilization. A generic dispensing rate or GDR of 80% is not high, relatively speaking. It costs you as much as 2.5% net savings for each 1% below the national average of 90% GDR.

2) Manufacturer assistance programs are a temporary reprieve. First, a drug manufacturer could pull the plug on financial assistance at any moment. More importantly, as more and more new patients initiate a specialty drug therapy regimen, you will find your Rx costs returning back to pre-PAP and pre-CAP program PMPM costs. In a commercial plan, 20 new specialty drug treatments are started per 1000 members annually. Say it with me...cha-ching! Take full advantage of manufacturer derived assistance programs while you can. Restrict the non-fiduciary PBM's ability to profit from them. The more the PBM benefits from these programs financially the more you and your members pay. 

3) Eliminate expanded drug lists or EDLs. If you choose to keep an EDL as part of the benefit design, restrict them. Are you paid formulary rebates for a drug listed on the EDL? Worse yet, these EDLs create an environment where the relationship between physician and patient becomes transactional. Circumvention of a really good formulary is likely to result in wasteful and/or duplicative spending. 

4)  Lowest net cost formularies, high adherence rates (> 80%) and radical transparency in PBM contracts are and will remain the backbone of an efficiently run pharmacy benefit management program. Be relentless in removing money leaks from employer-sponsored pharmacy benefit programs. That effort starts with achieving radical transparency in your PBM service contract.

5) Education is key to getting to lowest net cost in employer-sponsored pharmacy benefit plans. Only the most sophisticated purchasers of PBM services will have the knowledge and confidence to bind lowest net costs for prescription drugs into contract language and benefit design. Hence, your competitive advantage includes executing good analysis of the correct information then deciding what all of this suggests for your organization. Those who seize the chance and develop a good plan have a higher probability of getting to lowest net cost. 

Five therapeutic categories are driving 90% of the specialty trend for CVS Caremark. Autoimmune is the largest drive because of supplemental indications, which is driving more utilization. The other four were oncology, cystic fibrosis, atopic dermatitis and HIV. New oncology products continue to be a large driver of spending and that in cystic fibrosis you are starting to see patients take more drugs per patient.

Evernorth’s report says 17 of the top 25 drugs ranked by total pharmacy spend were specialty medications in 2020.

<<Continue Reading>>

Monday, September 27, 2021

The Untold Truth: How Pharmacy Benefit Managers Make Money [Free Webinar]

How many businesses do you know want to cut their revenues in half? That's why traditional pharmacy benefit managers don't offer a fiduciary standard and instead opt for hidden cash flow opportunities such as rebate masking. Want to learn more?


Here is what some participants have said about the webinar.

"Thank you Tyrone. Nice job, good information." David Stoots, AVP

"Thank you! Awesome presentation." Mallory Nelson, PharmD

"Thank you Tyrone for this informative meeting." David Wachtel, VP

"...Great presentation! I had our two partners on the presentation as well. Very informative." Nolan Waterfall, Agent/Benefits Specialist

A snapshot of what you will learn during this 30 minute webinar:

  • Hidden cash flows in the PBM Industry
  • Basic to intermediate level PBM terminologies
  • Specialty pharmacy cost-containment strategies
  • Examples of drugs that you might be covering that are costing you
  • The #1 metric to measure when evaluating PBM proposals


Sincerely,
TransparentRx
Tyrone D. Squires, MBA  
10845 Griffith Peak Drive, Suite 200  
Las Vegas, NV 89135 
Office: (866) 499-1940
Mobile: (702) 803-4154


P.S.  Yes, it's recorded. I know you're busy ... so register now and we'll send you the link to the session recording as soon as it's ready.   

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Reference Pricing: "Gross" Invoice Cost vs. AWP for Popular Generic and Brand Prescription Drugs (Volume 381)

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.

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.



Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Tip of the Week: What is spread pricing, and how does it affect a PBM’s revenues?

Knowing which factors influence revenues for commercial health plans and pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) helps health insurance brokers and PBM consultants provide the right mix of solutions to their customers. But deciphering annual reports and financial statements can be tricky if you’re not a CFO. What’s more, these resources rarely provide a complete picture of a PBM’s revenue model.

How important are rebates to a health plan’s or PBM’s bottom line? How do commercial plans earn revenue on premiums? What is spread pricing, and how does it affect a PBM’s revenues? You can find the answers to these and other questions in our recent webinar, “Benefits of Working with a Fiduciary-Model PBM.” This off-the-shelf webinar recording explains the main sources of PBM revenue and key expenses for health plan sponsors. 




And for the short term, payer financials may be especially challenging to decipher, given the impact of COVID-19. For example, many health insurers have reported strong earnings because they have had to pay fewer claims, as patients have delayed care or canceled elective procedures. Whether this trend holds as the country faces additional surges is unclear.

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Reference Pricing: "Gross" Invoice Cost vs. AWP for Popular Generic and Brand Prescription Drugs (Volume 380)

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.

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.


Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Tip of the Week: How PBMs Help Rein in Drug Spending

Figure 1
Pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) are hired by employers or organizations to act as the middleman between drug manufacturers and pharmacies. They essentially seek to bring together the entire pharmacy supply chain, while helping to improve patient outcomes through clinical and cost-saving programs. The United States spent an estimated sum of approximately $500 billion on medications in 2019. This number combines all insurance types as well as cash-paying patients. This is a $200 billion increase over the past 10 years. 

There is no telling what this number would be without PBMs. PBMs seek to control that spending while providing the most effective care to their members. These negotiation skills have the potential to provide significant value. There is nothing more a CEO from a drugmaker would love than to remove PBMs from the negotiating table. Point-of-sale rebates, for example, might reduce member cost share but any lost revenue, by non-fiduciary PBMs or health plans, will be shifted elsewhere. A CBO (Congressional Budget Office) report happens to agree. Reducing PBM purchasing power (negotiating rebates) would allow pharmaceutical companies to offer discounts 15% smaller than their current rebates. There are a few additional ways in which PBMs can help their clients (see figure 1):

1) Administer and process claims
2) Provide pharmacy networks
3) Provide mail order services
4) Negotiate with manufacturers
5) Optimize plan performance of clients
6) Ensure safe, cost-effective, appropriate medication utilization

Tyrone's Commentary:

The primary goal of a PBM is to contain its clients' cost. We do that by negotiating with drugmakers and pharmacies for better pricing, managing utilization and product mix. There is a direct correlation between transparency and value transfer in pharmacy benefits. To the extent a PBM's cost-containment practices benefit commercial and public sector employers, unions, health plans and health systems, matters a great deal. When a PBM is successful in cutting costs and doesn't transfer those savings to the client, it increases revenue for the PBM but in turn increases costs to employers and employees, for example.

Continue Reading >> 

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Reference Pricing: "Gross" Invoice Cost vs. AWP for Popular Generic and Brand Prescription Drugs (Volume 379)

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.

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.

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Tip of the Week: A Good Formulary is the Backbone of an Efficient Pharmacy Benefit Program

Click to Learn More
A drug formulary is a continually updated list of medications and related information, representing the clinical judgment of pharmacists, physicians, and other experts in the diagnosis and/or treatment of disease and promotion of health. It is often described as a list of medications routinely stocked by the health care system. The formulary was developed by hospitals in the 1950s as a management tool. A key purpose of the formulary was to discourage the use of marginally effective drugs and treatments. 

Over time, the formulary has evolved beyond a simple list of medications. It is now one element of a system that includes medication use policies, a pharmacy and therapeutics committee, medication use evaluation, and formulary management. The formulary, today, can be more accurately defined as a continually updated list of medications and related information, representing the clinical judgment of pharmacists, physicians, and other experts in the diagnosis and/or treatment of disease and promotion of health.

  1. Closed formulary: A list of medications (formulary) which limits access of a practitioner to some medications. 
  2. Open formulary: A list of medications (formulary) which has no limitation to access to a medication by a practitioner.
  3. Tiered formulary: Plan sponsors offer different copays or other financial incentives to encourage participants to use preferred formulary drugs but pay a portion of the cost of non-preferred drugs. 

Formularies are fundamental to the formulary system—defined as an ongoing process which methodically evaluates medications on an ongoing basis for inclusion or exclusion, establishes guidelines for optimal medication use, and develops policies and procedures for prescribing, dispensing, and administering medications. The formulary system is managed by the pharmacy and therapeutics committee or equivalent group—made up of an organized team of medication system experts. 

When considering a formulary, access defines the basic aspects of a pharmacy benefit design which includes but is not limited to:

  • The products that will be covered
  • The products that will not be covered
  • The products that need prior approval
  • Plan cap or maximum dollar amount a plan will pay for outpatient drug benefits
  • Mail service benefits including specialty pharmacy, if any
  • Pharmacy network makeup 

There are advantages and disadvantages to a formulary system. The primary advantage is that it provides a systematic method to review scientific evidence on clinical effectiveness and cost effectiveness in drug selection decision, thus potentially improving health outcomes while reducing costs. A major disadvantage, however, is that an overly restrictive formulary system may potentially reduce the quality of care by limiting access to clinically indicated medications.

Managing a formulary and improving its efficiency involves an ongoing assessment of the drugs on the formulary as well as any new potential drug therapy treatments. Again, do not leave this responsibility solely in the hands of the PBM unless it has agreed to accept fiduciary responsibility. Rebates should never be the primary reason a drug is selected to be on the formulary. The purpose of your health plan's formulary is to steer members to the least costly medications that are sufficiently effective for treating their health conditions.

Thursday, September 2, 2021

Reference Pricing: "Gross" Invoice Cost vs. AWP for Popular Generic and Brand Prescription Drugs (Volume 379)

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.

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.

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Tip of the Week: How to Eliminate Huge PBM Markups and Reduce Pharmacy Costs by 50%

Generating more than $400 billion annually, the PBM industry offers a valuable service, providing pharmacy benefits to nearly 250 million Americans. Unfortunately, very few people outside of the industry fully understand how much money PBMs keep for themselves after the bills are paid.  

Click to Discover More
PBM clients include, but are not limited to, commercial and public sector employers, unions, health plans and health systems just to name a few. All of the different PBM business models will profess how much money they can help plan sponsors save or that they are the most effective at improving your pharmacy benefit plan. However, very few of them share how much revenue they retain. Neither do they disclose their management fees. 

Only two PBM business models will share their management fee - fiduciary or radically transparent PBM models. I mean, who are we kidding? Traditional, pass-through, and transparent PBM business models are for the most part the same. Do any of them reveal how much money they are being paid for their services? Think about this for a second. Contracts between pharmacy benefit managers and pharmaceutical manufacturers and pharmacies are pretty much set in stone. Unless a PBM significantly outperforms its contract, the terms between the PBM and manufacturer or pharmacy network will not change until the contract ends. 

“The PBM's Management Fee is the #1 metric in evaluating proposals and getting to the lowest net cost during an RFP.” 

PBM Management Fee = AF (Administrative Fees) + DF (Dispensing Fees) + IC (Ingredient Costs) + MR (Manufacturer Revenue) – CD (Cash Disbursements)

For a PBM to outperform a contract with a pharmaceutical manufacturer, would require a significant change in market share, for example. Given this reality, what health plan sponsors are really negotiating for during renewal is what part of the discounts a PBM has secured you will allow that same PBM to keep. The part a PBM retains is its management fee.

<<Download Case Study>>

Sunday, August 29, 2021

The Untold Truth: How Pharmacy Benefit Managers Make Money [Free Webinar]

How many businesses do you know want to cut their revenues in half? That's why traditional pharmacy benefit managers don't offer a fiduciary standard and instead opt for hidden cash flow opportunities such as rebate masking. Want to learn more?


Here is what some participants have said about the webinar.

"Thank you Tyrone. Nice job, good information." David Stoots, AVP

"Thank you! Awesome presentation." Mallory Nelson, PharmD

"Thank you Tyrone for this informative meeting." David Wachtel, VP

"...Great presentation! I had our two partners on the presentation as well. Very informative." Nolan Waterfall, Agent/Benefits Specialist

A snapshot of what you will learn during this 30 minute webinar:

  • Hidden cash flows in the PBM Industry
  • Basic to intermediate level PBM terminologies
  • Specialty pharmacy cost-containment strategies
  • Examples of drugs that you might be covering that are costing you
  • The #1 metric to measure when evaluating PBM proposals


Sincerely,
TransparentRx
Tyrone D. Squires, MBA  
10845 Griffith Peak Drive, Suite 200  
Las Vegas, NV 89135 
Office: (866) 499-1940
Mobile: (702) 803-4154


P.S.  Yes, it's recorded. I know you're busy ... so register now and we'll send you the link to the session recording as soon as it's ready.   

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Reference Pricing: "Gross" Invoice Cost vs. AWP for Popular Generic and Brand Prescription Drugs (Volume 378)

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.

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.


Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Tip of the Week: Drugmakers circumvent health plan sponsor benefit designs, at the switch, to get high-cost brand drugs dispensed

Why aren't more people up in arms about this? Brand drugmakers are circumventing pharmacy benefit plan designs by offering eVouchers or electronic vouchers for expensive drugs at the "Switch." The switch is what routes the third-party prescription claim to the PBM or health plan associated with the prescription. Within seconds, the script leaves the pharmacy, goes to the switch and then is received at the relevant PBM.

When the benefit design has soft UM or no utilization management protocols, such as mandatory generic enforcement, it allows drugmakers to bypass a tier 1 drug for a tier 2-4 drug or even worse a non-formulary drug, with eVouchers (see process flow diagram below). The two largest switch companies are RelayHealth and Change HealthcareAs Relay Health tells the story, its electronic voucher program is a Win-Win-Win solution:
  • Doctors “set aside concerns over costs”
  • “Patients benefit from lower copays” and “increased adherence”
  • Manufacturers benefit from increased “scripts written”, “the likelihood patients will fill and adhere to them” and “increased brand loyalty”
But what about you the health plan sponsor? You are conveniently left out of the equation even though you cover most of the cost. I teach in our CPBS Certification course how plan sponsors fund the entire USA prescription drug system but know the least about how it works. Simply put, it is your checkbook they are after. The financial impact of switch operators’ eVoucher programs to health plan sponsors is significant and growing with each passing day.

Click to Enlarge

There are two ways to prevent the scenario above from happening:

(1) PBM puts language into its contract, with the Switch company, preventing the action.
(2) Benefit design maximizes the drug utilization management toolkit including step therapy and mandatory generic enforcement programs.

Number two is sticky as many plan sponsors are hellbent on employees getting the drug they want without any scrutiny (i.e. step therapy). I don't agree but it's not my checkbook. The point is to make people happy through better outcomes not for the sake of avoiding the pain that comes with running an efficient health plan. In a sense, drugmakers, and non-fiduciary PBMs for that matter, are leveraging HR's desire to keep employees "happy."

For TransparentRx the choice is simple, either you want an efficient pharmacy benefit program or you don't. If you [health plan sponsors] don't want an efficient pharmacy benefit program then expect to pay $1000 for a drug when a $100 drug would have provided the same level of efficacy, for example. eVouchers, especially when supported with direct-to-consumer TV ads for high-cost brand drugs and soft utilization management protocols, are an expensive proposition for health plan sponsors yet lucrative one for brand drugmakers.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Reference Pricing: "Gross" Invoice Cost vs. AWP for Popular Generic and Brand Prescription Drugs (Volume 377)

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.

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.

Ohio awards contract worth billions to the same company it accused of fraud and was later paid $88 million as a result

Ohio is again in business with a company that only recently it was accusing of massive fraud. The state’s leaders seem reluctant to explain why. Two months ago, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost announced that Centene, the largest Medicaid managed-care provider in the United States, would pay Ohio $88.3 million to settle a lawsuit claiming that Centene had defrauded taxpayers of tens of millions of dollars. 

In a regulatory filing, the company said its overall settlement of those and expected fraud claims was much bigger than that. It set aside $1.3 billion to settle such claims across the country, the filing said. An analysis commissioned by the Ohio Department of Medicaid showed that in 2017, drug middlemen owned by Centene was charging the state $20 million for services that it was already paying CVS for. It’s a claim they both denied.

Tyrone's Commentary:

There are probably details the public is not privy to, but lets assume for a second that isn't the case. If I had to do it all over again, I would pick up golf. It seems relationships matter more than results for some.

The suit AG Yost filed against Centene in March made a similar allegation. It said that Buckeye had defrauded taxpayers of tens of millions of dollars by working through a chain of middlemen to overcharge for prescription drugs. On Friday — a day when government entities are known to put out news they want to bury — Medicaid issued a brief press release. It touted the news that Centene’s Buckeye would become the state’s seventh managed care provider by saying it “will give customers more options.”

It didn’t make any mention of fraud; it just said the lawsuit was settled, so it’s time to get back into business with Centene.

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