CMS proposals to Medicare Part D address skyrocketing prescription drug costs

Prescription drug costs are a huge concern for Americans of all ages, especially those age 50 and older. A 2016 AARP survey of nearly 2,000 people found that 81 percent of older patients believe drug prices are too high. Nine out of 10 want the government to address the problem.

At the same time, a Bloomberg survey of 3,000 brand name prescription drugs determined that prices had doubled in some cases – and even and quadrupled in others – since December 2014.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has released proposals to help contain prices in the Part D prescription drug benefit (and Medicare Advantage plans, but we only will cover Part D in this article). The hope is that the recommendations will offer health plans and pharmacies some flexibility as they try to help patients who often need expensive drugs to survive.

The complete CMS document is 185 pages long. Here are a few highlights that impact Part D plans.

– Part D policy requires plan sponsors to include on their formularies all drugs in six “protected” therapeutic classes: antidepressants, antipsychotics, anticonvulsants, immunosuppressants for treatment of transplant rejection, antiretrovirals and antineoplastics. The proposal would create three exceptions that would allow Part D sponsors to impose formulary actions on drugs in protected classes: prior authorization and step therapy; a protected class single source drug or biological if its WAC has increased; and a new formulation of a single source protected class drug or biological that has the same active ingredient as the original.

– The CMS proposal would allow plan sponsors to remove a Protected Class drug from their formulary if the drug price is too high. The idea is to give plans an opportunity to receive bigger rebates on those drugs, which until now have seen lower rebates than non-PC drugs. That would boost price competition and help keep costs low.

– CMS also is proposing changing the definition of negotiated price so that it reflects the minimum price available. That way, a pharmacy could be reimbursed for any drug. Before, pharmacies could receive additional reimbursements to lower drug costs based on performance. The reimbursements are determined at the end of the end of a coverage year. The problem is, the majority of pharmacies don’t quality for the reimbursements.

– Under the proposals, plan sponsors and pharmacy benefit managers could use pricing tables based on the lowest possible reimbursement in their claims processing systems that interface with contracted pharmacies. That way, pharmacies could create stronger, more accurate budgets based on projected revenues.

The new CMS proposals are beneficial for pharmacies, plans and patients. But they can be difficult and time-consuming for busy health plans to wade through and implement. Tier 1 Pharmacy Consulting can handle it all for you.

How? Our experience is rooted in clinical practice and evidence-based medicine. We can help your plan  develop effective, proactive initiatives – including complicated CMS changes to prescription drugs and everything else – that lead to quality health outcomes for your members.

Working with Tier 1 also will improve your plan’s performance and ensure compliance to prevent a CMS audit (although we provide extensive audit guidance and support as well).

We also can help monitor and assess the initiatives delegated to your PBM to ensure you are receiving the right type of ROI.

About Tier 1 

Tier 1 Pharmacy Consulting is a Denver, Colorado-based pharmacy benefit consulting firm offering customized services to healthcare plans that offer prescription drug benefits. Whether your health plan is big or small, Tier 1 offers strategic, cost-saving solutions that boost the plan’s overall value and help its members by providing high quality care.

Tier 1’s founder is a clinical pharmacist with more than a decade of experience in pharmacy benefit management. We are passionate about collaborating and developing effective strategies to improve health plan outcomes.

Tier 1 offers health plans a new perspective on how to manage their pharmacy benefit. Our team is made up of experts who strive to make effective plans even stronger and fill in any gaps due to a lack of time or resources.

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