Employers Have Variety of Approaches for High-Cost Drugs

As more high-cost drugs, including one-time gene therapies, come onto the market, employers are considering implementing a variety of contracting models to make sure their employees have access to these agents. However, even as innovative new approaches are being explored, employers have experienced challenges in executing them. But with the pharma pipeline full of specialty products, employers should explore which approaches may work best for their company.

“The emerging financial models for employers stemming from these new ultra–high-cost gene therapies include various reinsurance products from organizations like Cigna, CVS/Aetna, Prime Therapeutics and others,” explains Jorge Font, MPH, senior vice president of the access experience team at PRECISIONvalue. “These products involve a regular per-member-per-month premium paid to cover the risk of these low-frequency, high-cost claims.”

Reinsurance Does Not Have Big Uptake

This approach, he says, is similar conceptually to regular reinsurance, also known as stop-loss coverage, for high-cost claims. “Jumbo-sized self-insured employers (like insurance companies) may not require reinsurance since they have sufficient enrollment to spread the risk. Provided a decision is made to cover gene therapy, employers can decide how best to handle the risk. Employers must typically opt in to coverage, much like an optional rider. These programs may also feature value-based contract terms, with the manufacturer sharing all or part of the risk of failed treatment. At this time, there does not appear to be significant uptake in these commercial reinsurance programs given the lack of clarity on gene therapy cost/benefit and the more immediate focus by employers on the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Angela Maas

Angela has an extensive background of editing, reporting and writing for trade and consumer publications. She has written Radar on Specialty Pharmacy (formerly called Specialty Pharmacy News) since she joined AIS Health in 2005 and has broad knowledge of the various issues at play within the space. Before joining AIS Health, she was managing editor at Employee Benefit News and Employee Benefit News Canada and managing editor at HemAware (a hemophilia publication), Lupus Living and Momentum (a multiple sclerosis publication). She has a B.A. in English and an M.A. in British literature from Arizona State University.

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