Which Employers Are Incentivizing Generic Drugs Over Brand Name?
By Bill Olson, Chief Marketing Officer for United Benefit Advisors
According to UBA’s new Special Report – Trends in Prescription Drug Benefits, 61.8% of plans required employees to pay more when they elect brand-name drugs over an available generic drug (a 5.5% increase from 2014); 37.9% of those plans require the added cost even if the physician notes “dispense as written.” On the other hand, only 1% of plans offer no coverage for brand-name drugs if generics are available and 37.2% offer no added cost coverage. So while most employers aren’t completely penalizing those who choose brand-name drugs, more and more plans are requiring employees to pay higher copays when they elect brand-name drugs. Some plans have a mandated step therapy program that makes sure employees try a lower class alternative before they move to a medication in a higher class (or try a generic or generic equivalent in a particular therapeutic class). Some plans exclude certain drugs altogether. This cost pressure has made employers more aware of drug costs, so many are beginning to educate employees about using benefits cost-effectively. Here’s what our Health Plan Survey data shows about which employers are steering employees to generics:
- Predictably, the larger the employer, the more generous it is in covering brand name drugs either with no added cost or at least not incurring added cost when the physician notes “dispense as written.” Seventy-seven percent of plans for groups with 1,000+ employees fall in this category while only 51% of small group plans offer this benefit.
- Plans in the central U.S. and within the construction, agriculture, mining, and transportation industries are making the most aggressive push to generic drugs, with only 46.3% and 53.8%, respectively, providing relief for brand name drugs.
While injectable drugs are often watched as a significant liability when it comes to cost containment, nearly all plans have no separate deductible for these medications. Additional tiers, coinsurance models and mail order benefits are overwhelmingly the way employers are dealing with the highest cost drugs.
In 2015 alone, 38 specialty drugs received FDA approval, and more are in the pipeline. “The latest development among aggressively managed drug plans is to move specialty drugs (oral and injectable) to the major medical portion of the policy, delivering an initial 7- to 15-day supply to confirm the drug’s effectiveness before dispensing a full 30-day supply” says Scott Deru, President of UBA Partner Firm Fringe Benefit Analysts. “Requirements also include frequent patient follow-up to verify adherence to the prescription schedule, any adverse reactions, and to verify that mail order drugs amounting to tens of thousands of dollars are being tracked and received by the patient. Other cost containment strategies include bringing a registered nurse to a patient’s home for infusion therapy to avoid the facility and prescription mark-up costs from inpatient and outpatient facilities.”
For more information on prescription drug trends, subscribe to the UBA blog, read our breaking news release or download UBA’s free (no form!) publication: Special Report: Trends in Prescription Drug Benefits.