MBGH survey indicates employers' concerns about specialty drug management

Cheryl Larson

The nonprofit group Midwest Business Group on Health (MBGH) released its fourth annual employer survey on specialty drug management on June 9.

The survey results indicated that although most employers who participated in the survey still utilized copays and coinsurance, many are open to trying new ways to manage the cost of specialty drugs.

"These results are an encouraging sign that employers are ready to think proactively about their cost management options," MBGH Vice President Cheryl Larson said. "It is also a reminder of the impact cost shifting can have on employee and family members, yet most employers don't feel they have a choice. In fact, many employers are concerned about their ability to continue to offer medical and/or pharmacy benefits in the future. For employers, doing nothing is no longer an option."

The survey found 68 percent of participants were mulling using a less broad network for patient management, but that less than 10 percent currently offer one. Sixty-three percent were considering carving out a specialty drug benefit; 16 percent are already doing so.

More than half of the employers surveyed may soon put more costs on employees; 18 percent are already doing so. In 2014, more than half the surveyed employers shifted costs over the last three years, an increase of 50 percent.

Other findings included:

- Many employers - 78 percent - are very concerned about the increasing cost of specialty drugs. 

- Eighty percent agree or somewhat agree that their pharmacy benefit managers are doing a good job at managing specialty drug costs.

- Many employers are ready to think proactively about plan design.

- Sixty-three percent of employers surveyed don't offer plan elements that would drive people to the lowest cost site of care; fewer yet offer incentives.

This multiyear research project was launched by MBGH in 2010. Complete survey results can be found online at www.mbgh.org.

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Organizations in this story

Midwest Business Group on Health 35 E. Wacker Drive Chicago, IL 60101