The post below is a guest blog from Steve Byrd who serves as Principal, Health & Welfare Consultant for CAI’s employee benefits partner Hill, Chesson & Woody.
With the cost of healthcare increasing steadily, everyone is constantly looking for ways to reduce claims and slow the trajectory. Since the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), discussion over how much healthcare utilization actually costs has become a central focus for both providers and consumers. One often overlooked method of lowering costs is better prescription drug management.
One of the most trusted relationships that can exist is one between a patient and a physician. When a drug is prescribed, there is rarely any second-guessing or further questioning from the patient. While it goes without saying that the doctor has the patient’s best interests in mind, it may be that there are other, more cost effective solutions that should also be considered.
The first and most obvious cost saving measure is to ask for generic prescriptions. Generic drugs can cost fractions of what name-brand drugs cost and are identical in their chemical makeup. Name brand drugs are more expensive because the pharmaceutical company has to pay for research and development, marketing, and then try to make a profit. However, once the patent on that drug expires, companies can come in and produce them for much cheaper without having to conduct the research or safety studies. This results in much lower costs to the healthcare system.
If there is not an available generic, ask for a free sample. Pharmaceutical companies are constantly supplying physicians with samples of their drugs in hope that they will prescribe them. If you are treating a short-term problem, a free sample may keep you from filling your prescription at all.
In some instances generics are not available. In these cases, ask for less costly therapeutic equivalents. This may be a different chemical or drug, but the treatment result is the same. Instead of one more expensive prescription, you may get another, cheaper, prescription that has the same effect on your condition.
It is also important to shop pharmacies and utilize savings found at retail stores. Even though a patient may pay a small copay for whatever prescription they are having filled, the actual cost of the drug can vary from pharmacy to pharmacy, and even from location to location of chain pharmacies. Most people tend to fill all of their prescriptions at one pharmacy without ever following up on the cost. This may result in paying higher prices for the same drug. It is also important to shop at retail stores, especially for generics. Stores such as Costco, Wal-Mart, and many chain supermarkets will often fill generic prescriptions for less than the copay. This results in double savings: the customer doesn’t spend as much out of pocket and there is no pharmacy claim against the health plan.
Healthcare insurance costs are going to continue to rise. In order to minimize the impact that these rising costs have, it is becoming more critical for the consumer to use the system effectively and efficiently. It is essential to communicate with your employees the importance of good prescription drug utilization. To help keep costs under control, inform employees of potential cost saving measures, supply them with good consumer guides such as Healthier at Home, and keep them aware of how good utilization affects insurance rates.
There are a variety of ways to communicate with employees. Many companies are turning to social networks such as Facebook and Twitter to get the message out. Other methods such as lunch and learns, email communications, and face to face meetings are also effective in educating your workforce. No one solution is going to be a silver bullet, and maybe your employees need to be communicated to in a variety of ways.
Hill, Chesson and Woody works as a partner with our clients to develop communication strategies that ensure their employees understand their benefits and cost-effective utilization.