Thursday, January 21, 2021

Reference Pricing: "Gross" Invoice Cost vs. AWP for Popular Generic and Brand Prescription Drugs (Volume 349)

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.   

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Reference Pricing: "Gross" Invoice Cost vs. AWP for Popular Generic and Brand Prescription Drugs (Volume 348)

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, January 12, 2021

Tuesday Tip of the Week: It is a Myth That Any Pharmacy Benefit Manager Offers Better Price Savings Because of Their Size

It is a myth that the Big 6 (ESI, CVS, Optum, Humana, MedImpact and Prime) offers better price savings just because of their size. The myth is often perpetuated by the old guard who for a long time have personally benefited from overpayments received from opaque PBM business practices. We can't expect the old guard to bite the hand that feeds them, can we?

Sure, the Big 6 have more purchasing power, but their clients often don't realize the full benefit. For example, if our rebate aggregator pays us, TransparentRx, a $3000 rebate for drug "A" every penny goes back to the client with an audit trail. The audit trail includes claim level detail (e.g. claim number, NDC, date and rebate amount) for every drug which earned a rebate payment. 

The Big 6 might earn $4000 on that same drug, but retains $1200 in-house, for instance. The plan sponsor pockets an additional $200 working with a radically transparent, albeit smaller, PBM. Without an audit trail a PBM could earn a rebate on a drug and not share any of those dollars with the plan sponsor who actually earned it. A similar scenario plays out in mail, specialty and retail pharmacy networks.


Price quotes (RFPs etc...) are simply an estimate of what the plan sponsor would have spent had the historical utilization matched that of the proposing PBM (a lot in this sentence). Furthermore, the future actual cost is unknown. As a result, the plan sponsor’s PBM contract is the most important tool to address the actual level of spend - not cost projections. Non-fiduciary PBMs know full well what you like to see in proposals. When contract language is opaque, the non-fiduciary PBM starts to eat away at the proposed savings, i.e. discount and rebate guarantees, as soon as you go live.

If you've never considered the PBM management fee in how you procure pharmacy benefit management services, watch this free webinar. The PBM management fee isn't what you think it is. It is largely the undisclosed fee a PBM charges for providing their services to plan sponsors. For non-fiduciary PBMs, the bulk of this fee is buried in the final plan pharmacy cost. It goes without saying, the contract is king.

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Reference Pricing: "Gross" Invoice Cost vs. AWP for Popular Generic and Brand Prescription Drugs (Volume 347)

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, January 5, 2021

Tuesday Tip of the Week: Expanded Drug Lists are an Excessive Pharmacy Cost Driver

There is disagreement around the watercooler whether or not the prescription drugs presented on a PBM's expanded drug list are required by law. Here is a link to the IRS notice which explains that HDHP expanded list of drugs are permissible and not required. Furthermore, if a pharmacy benefit manager offers a separate expanded drug list or EDL they are usually very careful to use phrases such as 'may be covered' or 'if your plan covers.' This a clear signal that coverage for these prescription drugs is optional and that the plan design ultimately determines if a patient gets access to these drugs. 

It's also important to note that the IRS notice specifies only the therapeutic categories (e.g. diabetes) which are treated as preventive care. The PBMs themselves are then left to decide which drugs to sell, within these categories, to their clients as part of an EDL. PBMs who profit from poor product mix or overutilization have done a masterful job making the EDL look like something that is going to add incremental value to its groups and help patients.

Consumer Reports wrote, "If you’re like most Americans, you probably start your day with a hot shower, a cup of coffee—and a handful of pills." Plan sponsors who design benefits that require neither a copayment nor a deductible for drugs listed on an EDL are subsidizing a crisis similar to the opioid epidemic. When drugs are free to members a role reversal occurs, for instance. Instead of the physician diagnosing then prescribing a medication based upon that diagnosis, members self-diagnose then go into the PCPs office and ask for a medication they know is free to them. Many times patients will leave with the medication they came for.

Click to Learn More

Things can get much worse from there. Almost 1.3 million people went to U.S. emergency rooms due to adverse drug effects in 2014, and about 124,000 died from those events. That’s according to estimates based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration. Today, those numbers are likely far higher. Other research suggests that up to half of those events were preventable. The amount of harm stemming from inappropriate prescription medication is staggering. 

All of that bad medicine is costly, too. An estimated $200 billion per year is spent in the U.S. on the unnecessary and improper use of medication, for the drugs themselves and related medical costs, according to the market research firm IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics. In short, plan sponsors will do more harm than good when you create an environment where the relationship between physician and patient becomes transactional.

It is TransparentRx's position that the formulary should not be circumvented to accommodate EDL drugs. Simply put, there should not be a separate drug list. Inappropriate prescription medication aside, what about rebates? If your contract calls for full pass-through of formulary rebates, are you paid rebates on a drug listed on the EDL but not on the formulary? The PBM is getting those rebate dollars from drugmakers just as sure as the sun will rise every morning in the East. 

TransparentRx's formulary is designed to provide our clients with a choice of pharmacy products that meet all of the essential clinical conditions while addressing economic needs, and providing quality of care, affordability and choice. Circumvention of our formulary or any really good formulary is likely to result in wasteful and/or duplicative spending. 

If a drug is approved by the P&T committee to be placed on the formulary and also happens to be on the EDL, the benefit is fully applied. Moreover, when the deductible is waived for prescription drugs on the EDL and this same drug is also on the ACA drug list the member pays zero out of pocket. This is a loophole. Close the loophole it will save your company money and possibly a life.