Industry Trends

Trends That Matter for Kansas Medicaid Expansion

February 13, 2020

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly (D) and Republican Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning on Jan. 9 said they’d reached a compromise proposal to extend Medicaid coverage to an estimated 130,000 more low-income Kansans, AIS Health reported.

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly (D) and Republican Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning on Jan. 9 said they’d reached a compromise proposal to extend Medicaid coverage to an estimated 130,000 more low-income Kansans, AIS Health reported.

If approved, Kansas will pursue a full expansion of Medicaid to 138% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) with a 90/10 funding match. The state will also seek Section 1332 waiver approval to establish a reinsurance program and Section 1115 waiver approval to transition individuals whose incomes fall between 100% and 138% of the FPL from Medicaid to the exchange no later than Jan. 1, 2022, although expansion is not dependent on those waivers. If CMS denies either waiver, full Medicaid expansion will be implemented on Jan. 1, 2021, according to a summary of the pending legislation.

Kansas would be the 37th state to expand Medicaid. Ballot initiatives are pending in Missouri and Oklahoma, while voters in Nebraska and Utah have already approved expansion. The 10 remaining non-expansion states are largely concentrated in the South.
A new study in Health Affairs found that Medicaid expansion improved health outcomes in southern U.S. states, causing fewer self-reported declines in health status among low-income residents.

Perspectives on Consolidated PBMs in 2020

February 6, 2020

Though the two major transactions that upended the PBM landscape — Cigna Corp. buying Express Scripts Holding Co. and CVS Health Corp. acquiring Aetna Inc. — have already taken place, that doesn’t mean the sector won’t see more changes this year, industry experts tell AIS Health.

Though the two major transactions that upended the PBM landscape — Cigna Corp. buying Express Scripts Holding Co. and CVS Health Corp. acquiring Aetna Inc. — have already taken place, that doesn’t mean the sector won’t see more changes this year, industry experts tell AIS Health.

“The market is evolving,” says Brian Anderson, a principal with Milliman, Inc. The year 2020 will be marked by a presidential election and significant price pressure on manufacturers, along with pharmacies trying to retain their margin, he adds, “so it’s going to be a really wild year.”

Indeed, 2019 ended with Prime Therapeutics LLC and Express Scripts unveiling a three-year collaboration in which the latter PBM will negotiate with pharmaceutical manufacturers, on behalf of Prime’s members, for drugs covered on the pharmacy benefit, as well as provide services related to retail network contracting.

By teaming up with Prime, Express Scripts will be leading rebate negotiations and pharmacy network development for 103 million people, Adam Fein, Ph.D., CEO of Pembroke Consulting, Inc.’s Drug Channels Institute, wrote in a blog post. “This combined volume of Express Scripts and Prime will have enormous leverage with manufacturers and pharmacies,” he noted.

To Ashraf Shehata, KPMG national sector leader for health care and life sciences, the Prime/Express Scripts partnership is yet another example of “pure play” PBMs’ move toward consolidation. Given that trend, the opportunity to scale up both organizations’ purchasing power, and “the ability to kind of lock in Blue clients,” Shehata says, “I think it makes a lot of sense” for the two PBMs to team up.

Employers, meanwhile, are likely to press PBMs of all varieties for innovative solutions — not just deep drug-pricing discounts — during the selling season for 2021 contracts, Anderson says.

Therefore, “there’ll probably be a lot of new innovators in the market — people coming up with new products that maybe look and sound different,” he says. “But the question people are going to have to ask is, how different really is it? And is it really a differentiator in the marketplace?”

Radar on Market Access: Nebraska Proposes A Two-Tiered Medicaid Expansion

February 4, 2020

With Medicaid demonstration programs that include work requirements struck down in three states, it’s become increasingly clear that such waivers may not survive legal scrutiny. So Nebraska, which last month submitted its own Section 1115 waiver application, is trying a different tactic, AIS Health reported.

With Medicaid demonstration programs that include work requirements struck down in three states, it’s become increasingly clear that such waivers may not survive legal scrutiny. So Nebraska, which last month submitted its own Section 1115 waiver application, is trying a different tactic, AIS Health reported.

In its application to CMS, the state proposes to modify voter-approved Medicaid expansion by creating two tiers of coverage: Basic, which includes “comprehensive medical, behavioral health and prescription drug coverage” as required by federal law, and Prime, which is the Basic package plus vision, dental and over-the-counter medication coverage.

“Unlike other states, everyone who meets underlying eligibility criteria will receive at least the robust Basic benefits package,” the application notes.
One of the questions surrounding Nebraska’s unique waiver request is whether it could better withstand legal scrutiny than the Arkansas, Kentucky and New Hampshire work requirements waivers, which have been blocked by federal judges, according to Patricia Boozang, a senior managing director at Manatt Health.

Rather than threatening to end Medicaid coverage for people who don’t comply with the state’s requirements, Nebraska would simply give them a less-generous benefits package, Boozang tells AIS Health.

“The courts really have to opine on that,” she adds regarding whether Nebraska’s approach is more legally permissible.

However, even if the waiver survives a court challenge, that “doesn’t mean it’s good policy,” says Jerry Vitti, founder and CEO of Healthcare Financial, Inc.

Nebraska is asking people who are very vulnerable, who often have language or literacy barriers, and who may even be transient, to comply with “a pretty burdensome requirement for that demographic,” he says. “It’s counterintuitive to me that you’re going to cut benefits for those least able to comply.”

Both Vitti and Boozang agreed that if approved, Nebraska’s waiver program could add some administrative burden for the state and, depending on how it organizes the program, its Medicaid MCOs.

Trends That Matter for New Sickle Cell Medications

January 30, 2020

The first targeted therapy to treat pain crises in people with sickle cell disease presents a “welcome” new option that payers likely will embrace, a PBM head tells AIS Health. While the drug’s manufacturer cites “positive” early discussions with payers on it, some experts note the lifetime treatment — via a monthly intravenous infusion — is costly: around $100,000 annually.

The first targeted therapy to treat pain crises in people with sickle cell disease presents a “welcome” new option that payers likely will embrace, a PBM head tells AIS Health. While the drug’s manufacturer cites “positive” early discussions with payers on it, some experts note the lifetime treatment — via a monthly intravenous infusion — is costly: around $100,000 annually.

On Nov. 15, the FDA approved Novartis’ Adakveo (crizanlizumab-tmca), a treatment to fight the underlying cause and reduce the frequency of vaso-occlusive crisis, described as a common and painful complication of sickle cell disease. It is approved for patients ages 16 and older with the genetic blood disorder.

Hydroxyurea, a drug approved by the FDA in 1998, is now generic, costs about $1,000 a year, and is approved for children, the New York Times reported on Dec. 7. The two newcomers are Adakveo and Global Blood Therapeutics’ Oxbryta (voxelotor), a daily pill granted accelerated approval by the FDA 10 days after Adakveo’s approval. This led one expert to tell the news outlet that insurers likely will want to begin with hydroxyurea as the front-line therapy.

Yet Mesfin Tegenu, R.Ph., president of PerformRx, LLC, says that “options for patients with sickle cell disease have been very limited up to this point, so the approval of Adakveo is a welcome addition in the treatment of this debilitating disease.”

The graphics below show how sickle cell disease medications are covered among commercial health plans, health exchange programs and Medicare and Medicaid programs, and their utilization management restrictions.

Radar on Market Access: Disappointing MCOs, Supreme Court Won’t Expedite Obamacare Decision

January 30, 2020

In a blow to the managed care industry, the Supreme Court chose to delay intervening in Texas v. United States, the Republican state attorneys general-led lawsuit that would overturn the Affordable Care Act (ACA), AIS Health reported.

In a blow to the managed care industry, the Supreme Court chose to delay intervening in Texas v. United States, the Republican state attorneys general-led lawsuit that would overturn the Affordable Care Act (ACA), AIS Health reported.

“By declining to take up this case in an expedited manner, the Supreme Court leaves in place the cloud of uncertainty that hangs over the Affordable Care Act,” said Association for Community Affiliated Plans (ACAP) CEO Margaret A. Murray in a press release. “We are disappointed in the Court’s decision. Consumers will continue to pay the price for this confusion as the case stagnates, but we remain confident the ACA will withstand this challenge.”

ACAP cited general regulatory uncertainty as a significant source of risk for the managed care industry, and argued that the ambiguous outlook for the ACA contributes to rising costs for care and resulting higher premiums. “That uncertainty has already spread across the health care system. Plans will postpone investment and innovation in the individual market, dampening competition,” Murray said.

Though the high court’s delay in reviewing the case against the ACA was unpopular in the health insurance industry, it wasn’t entirely unexpected. According to press reports, the court rarely intervenes in lower court decisions unless there is an urgent matter at hand. Payer groups’ arguments that uncertainty could severely disrupt health care markets apparently did not meet that standard of crisis.

With the court’s decision, the suit could now stay out of the 2020 election’s limelight. If the Supreme Court declines to hear the case at all (which the justices haven’t yet decided), it will return to U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor’s Fort Worth courtroom and, if necessary, make its way through the regular appeals process, which could take months or years. O’Connor, who was appointed to the bench by George W. Bush in 2007, first heard the case in 2018 and ruled that the entire ACA was unconstitutional.

Radar on Market Access: Could Part D Reform Move Forward in 2020?

January 28, 2020

If Congress or the Trump administration are able to enact any type of drug-pricing reform during 2020, it’s likely to be a redesign of Medicare Part D, industry experts tell AIS Health.

If Congress or the Trump administration are able to enact any type of drug-pricing reform during 2020, it’s likely to be a redesign of Medicare Part D, industry experts tell AIS Health.

In the Senate, tweaking the Part D benefit is part of a larger piece of bipartisan legislation (S. 2543), championed by Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.). From the House, there’s the sweeping legislation (H.R. 3) proffered by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

Both bills would implement out-of-pocket spending caps for Part D beneficiaries and considerably change how costs are divided up in the catastrophic phase of coverage. They would also require drug manufacturers to repay Medicare if certain Part B or Part D drug prices rise faster than inflation.

“If you look at both the House and the Senate bills that have been put forward here, those [Part D] designs look very similar to one another, so I’m somewhat optimistic that…maybe there’s an opportunity for that to move forward,” says Stacie Dusetzina, an associate professor of health policy at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

However, Elizabeth Carpenter at Avalere Health contends that “it is unlikely in this environment that any drug pricing legislation would move as a standalone bill.” The most likely pre-election vehicle for a Part D redesign would be the health care extenders package that expires in May, she adds.

Gerard Anderson, a professor at Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, is more optimistic. “Drug pricing is the No. 1 issue for most voters when they’re talking about health care,” he points out. “So they’re going to feel a strong pressure” to pass something in Congress. Given that dynamic, he says he expects the Wyden/Grassley bill is likely to pass this year.

In whatever form a Part D redesign passes, Dusetzina says the biggest winner would be patients. While manufacturers and health plans would be on the hook for more spending in the catastrophic coverage phase, “on net, it probably isn’t very harmful for any one entity,” she contends.