Drug Channels analyzes Kaiser employer health survey

Drug Channels released its review of the Kaiser/HRET 2015 Employer Health Benefits Survey, which examines employer-sponsored health coverage at nearly 2,000 companies, on Oct. 13.

“Bottom line: Employers didn’t make major changes this year, but they continue to shift prescription drug costs to beneficiaries and are focusing on specialty drug management,” Drug Channels’ writer Adam Fein said.

Of the 1,997 firms examined in the survey, 89 percent offer health benefits to employees. Ninety-nine percent of the covered workers in these plans have a prescription drug benefit.

The Kaiser/HRET survey defines the drug tiers as generic drugs (drug products that are no longer covered by patent protection; preferred drugs (drugs included on a formulary or preferred drug list); nonpreferred drugs (drugs not included on a formulary or preferred drug list); and fourth tier drugs (new types of cost-sharing arrangements that build additional layers of higher copayments).

“In 2015, the three-tier design - generic drugs, preferred brand-name drugs and nonpreferred brand-name drugs - remains the most common, used in 65 percent of employer-sponsored plans,” Fein said. “Plans with four of more tiers have grown substantially. They accounted for 3 percent of employer-sponsored plans in 2004 to 23 percent in 2015. Compared with last year’s report, there was a small but statistically insignificant increase in four-tier plans: from 20 percent of covered workers in 2014 to 23 percent in 2015.”

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