Survey Offers Tips On Dealing With Rising Drug Plan Costs

November 15, 2002 ( - A 25% projected increase in prescription drug costs in 2003 has employers looking for money saving options on prescription drug benefits to employees.

The 2003 Segal Health Plan Cost Index offers some saving measures to help alleviate employer prescription drug costs, including switching from co-payment to coinsurance and utilizing pharmacy benefit managers.

Coinsurance – programs where the employer and employee pay a percentage of the cost of the prescription – make employees become more aware of the actual cost of prescriptions, yet offer a maximum and minimum co-payment for protection from some higher priced prescriptions.

The survey showed 65% agreed that rising prescription drug cost will push many plan sponsors to shift from more traditional co-payment plans (currently utilized by 78% of respondents) to coinsurance plans (currently utilized by 17%).

Employers should also take a more active role in educating employees about balancing direct-to-consumer drug advertising.   2001 saw $2.5 billion spent on direct-to-consumer advertising by drug companies, and reports show sales increases of 32% of those drugs being marketed by the drug companies.  

The International Society of Certified Benefits Specialist found only 9% of its members conducting this type of education in 2000.   The education programs can help alert employees to the most costly, highly advertised and frequently consumed medications as well as less expensive alternatives.

Utilize Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBM) whose computerized networks allow for the administration of complicated drug plan design and offers such features as reminders at the pharmacist’s office of lower cost alternatives and reviewing possible drug interactions to avoid costly complications.