Tag Archives: prescription drugs

Rebate considerations for prescription drug stakeholders

The prescription drug distribution chain is complex and involves several stakeholders. There are generally six in the supply and demand of prescription drugs: pharmaceutical manufacturers, health insurers (including self-insured employers), pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), pharmacies, wholesalers, and patients.

These stakeholders’ contracts determine how much a patient’s health insurance pays for prescription drugs and the patient’s out-of-pocket costs. Pharmaceutical manufacturer rebates are one of the key drivers that influence how health insurers cover prescription drugs. Rebates affect the finances of all stakeholders involved in the prescription drug distribution chain.

Prescription drug rebates are generally paid by a pharmaceutical manufacturer to a PBM, who then shares a portion with the health insurer. Rebates are mostly used for high-cost brand-name prescription drugs in competitive therapeutic classes where there are interchangeable products (rarely for generics), and aim to incentivize PBMs and health insurers to include the pharmaceutical manufacturer’s products on their formularies and to obtain preferred “tier” placement.

The May 2018 “American Patients First: The Trump Administration Blueprint to Lower Drug Prices and Reduce Out-of-Pocket Costs” from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services targets rebates as part of its goal to lower prescription drug prices. In this article, Milliman’s Gabriela Dieguez, Maggie Alston, and Samantha Tomicki explain the finances associated with rebates and their impact on health insurer coverage decisions.

Medicare Advantage and Part D actuarial compliance considerations

Operating Medicare Part C and Part D plans has become increasingly complicated. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) and a growing number of rules and regulations added each year have heightened the complexity and associated compliance burden for the health insurance companies that sell and administer these plans.

Actuaries are instrumental in developing the bids that plan sponsors submit annually to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Those bids include a plan benefit package and Part C and Part D bid pricing tools. The bid submission also includes a set of supporting documentation describing how the financial projections were developed and demonstrating compliance with the many bidding rules.

During desk review, CMS independently confirms that the bids pass compliance tests. It is critical that plan sponsors understand the tests and confirm compliance before bids are submitted.

In this paper, Chris Girod and Shyam Kolli discuss a relatively narrow area of rules that is sometimes loosely referred to as actuarial compliance. This information can be useful for actuaries and other professionals who are tasked with understanding and following the many rules and regulations as they relate to Parts C and D.

Opioid prescription patterns affect risk scores

Opioid prescribing nationwide peaked in 2012 at over 80 prescriptions per 100 persons. Between 2012 and 2016, the prescribing rate decreased by almost 20%. Even after this decline, 19% of the U.S. population filled at least one opioid prescription during 2016.

As opioid prescribing declined, many doctors switched to other pain relief drugs. The change in prescribing patterns has potential implications for risk adjustment, because some of the drugs now being used for pain relief were previously flagged in pharmacy-based risk adjustment models as associated with high-cost conditions such as multiple sclerosis.

This brief by Christine Mytelka, Melanie Kuester, Colin Gray, and Lucas Everheart provides data on the decline in opioid prescribing and the increased use of other non-opioid pain relief drugs. Additionally, it addresses the corresponding effect that changing prescribing patterns may have on evaluating population health and risk-adjusted payments in risk-based managed care programs.

Diagnosed opioid use disorder by payer

Over 25 million American adults report suffering from chronic pain on a daily basis, and a range of adverse health outcomes accompanies their pain. Beginning in the early 2000s, opioid analgesics were increasingly seen as a solution to the problem of under-treatment that had been a concern in the 1990s. From 1991 to 2011, the number of opioid prescriptions filled at U.S. retail pharmacies nearly tripled, increasing from 76 million to 219 million per year, though those numbers have started to decrease since the peak in 2011.

Despite the recent decrease in prescriptions of opioids, the human toll of the opioid crisis has continued to intensify. Illegally acquired heroin and synthetic opioids such as fentanyl have become the leading cause of overdose deaths. Opioid overdose deaths are now the single largest factor slowing the growth in U.S. life expectancy, and if current trends continue, opioid overdose deaths could outnumber suicides by 2019.

In this article, Milliman’s Stoddard Davenport and Katie Matthews help explain the scale of the opioid epidemic within the insurance industry.

Based on a sample of over 42 million people with commercial insurance, nearly 1.3 million Medicare beneficiaries, and a Kaiser Family Foundation analysis of Medicaid beneficiaries in 49 states, we estimate that over 1.5 million insured Americans were diagnosed with an opioid use disorder in 2015 (the most recent year available). Figures 3 and 4 summarize these findings by payer. These results (and others presented throughout this report) have been age- and area-adjusted to be representative of the U.S. insured population as of 2015 using U.S. Census Bureau data.12

Figure 3: Diagnosed opioid use disorder by payer, 2015 (or most recent year)

Commercial
(2015)
622,000
Medicare
(2015)
239,000
Medicaid
(2013)
642,000

We found that about 41.4% of those with diagnosed opioid use disorder were commercially insured, 15.9% were Medicare beneficiaries, and 42.7% were Medicaid beneficiaries. Overall, the diagnosed prevalence rate of opioid use disorder was 3.28 per 1,000 for the commercially insured, 5.39 per 1,000 for those with Medicare, and 8.90 per 1,000 for those with Medicaid. Across all insurance payers, we found that the prevalence of opioid use disorder was 4.91 per 1,000.

Figure 4: National estimates of opioid use disorder diagnosis by payer, 2015 (or most recent year)

Payer Diagnosed prevalence per 1,000 Total diagnosed nationally No. (%)
Commercial (2015) 3.28 622,000 (41.4)
Medicare (2015) 5.39 239,000 (15.9)
Medicaid (2013) 8.90 642,000 (42.7)
Total 4.91 1,503,000 (100.0)

The authors also highlight the rate of opioid use disorder by age and sex.

Rates of opioid use disorder varied widely by age and sex, with men generally experiencing higher rates of opioid use disorder through age 65, and women experiencing higher rates from 66 and older. Rates were quite low through childhood, followed by a marked increase in the late teen years, peaking in the mid-20s at a rate of 5.47 per 1,000 for women (at age 24) and 10.00 per 1,000 for men (at age 25). Rates showed a sharp drop-off in the late 20s, followed by a rise to another peak in the mid-30s of about 3.76 per 1,000 for women (at age 35) and 6.37 per 1,000 for men (at age 36). From the late 30s through age 64, the gap between men and women closed and both experienced prevalence rates hovering between 3.50 to 4.00 per 1,000 through retirement age. Opioid use disorder rates for Medicare beneficiaries were generally higher for women than for men, and tapered off with advancing age. Comparable data for Medicaid were not available.

Plan sponsors must consider several strategies to manage pharmacy costs

In recent years, pharmacy costs have been a hot topic. Plan sponsors must remain vigilant and stay current on industry strategies used to manage pharmacy costs. In this article, Milliman consultant Ajanthan Balasinkam outlines a number of important considerations for plan sponsors, including plan design, contracts, the opioid crisis, and the specialty pipeline.

How will the budget bill affect Medicare Part D’s donut hole?

The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 enacted key changes to Medicare Part D that will affect the program’s coverage gap—the “donut hole”—starting in 2019. The changes to the coverage gap have several financial implications for Part D stakeholders. In this article, Milliman consultants Adam Barnhart, Gabriela Dieguez, and David Mike explain the financial impact the bill will have on beneficiaries, employers, pharmaceutical manufacturers, the federal government, and plan sponsors.