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PhRMA, Advocates: Specialty Drug Costs Too High

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Others at the press event, including Carl Schmid, deputy executive director at the AIDS Institute, said HHS could redefine essential health benefits to stipulate that plans not include high cost-sharing for specialty prescription drugs. Silver-level plans mostly have an average of $70 for tier 3 drugs, and $270 for tier 4, according to a presentation to a recent meeting of the International Myeloma Foundation, one of the groups at the event.

“Certain plans are singling out medications — it’s not all plans or the majority — and those plans are fooling patients by putting every single drug in the highest tier,” Schmid said.

The groups, however, did not address issues related to the drugs’ actual price tags — only coverage costs to patients. But America’s Health Insurance Plans, the trade group for insurers, said in a blog post that PhMRA is trying to distract attention from drug pricing.

Meanwhile, these recent comments come amid growing debate on the issue.

The National Coalition on Health Care launched in May the Campaign for Sustainable Rx Pricing, which includes more than 80 organizations that represent employers, disease advocacy groups, providers and consumers.

John Rother, president and CEO of the NCHC, said though the concern about patients paying large coinsurance percentages is a valid one, it’s not the real problem — instead it is the overall cost of specialty drugs.

“Putting a limit on coinsurance probably would require legislative action, whereas reducing price is something companies could do tomorrow,” Rother told Kaiser Health News. “All we’re arguing about here is whether you pay out of one pocket or another. The real problem is the total price they have to pay. It’s not a poor industry — they can make it up on volume particular in the international market.”

AARP, which is a member of NCHC, also said if insurers were to eat the cost of specialty drugs without some amount of cost sharing, premiums would rise.

“Talking about high levels of cost-sharing without talking about the high levels of costs is disingenuous — they wouldn’t be so high if the prices of drugs weren’t so high,” said Leigh Purvis, senior strategic policy advisor at AARP’s Public Policy Institute.

Kaiser Health News (KHN) is a national health policy news service. It is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

Thu, Jun 12 2014

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