Radar on Market Access

Radar On Market Access: Highmark’s New Hemophilia Initiative Aims to Improve Care, Reduce Costs

December 11, 2019

With an eye on reducing spending and improving care among members with hemophilia, Highmark Inc. will launch a comprehensive program focused on the condition on Jan. 1. The health plan will partner exclusively with three companies — Option Care Health, Inc., Soleo Health and the Hemophilia Center of Western Pennsylvania — on the initiative, which has the potential to improve member care, reduce costs and cut down on fraud, waste and abuse, AIS Health reported.

With an eye on reducing spending and improving care among members with hemophilia, Highmark Inc. will launch a comprehensive program focused on the condition on Jan. 1. The health plan will partner exclusively with three companies — Option Care Health, Inc., Soleo Health and the Hemophilia Center of Western Pennsylvania — on the initiative, which has the potential to improve member care, reduce costs and cut down on fraud, waste and abuse, AIS Health reported.

Highmark chose hemophilia to focus on for a few reasons, says Sean Burke, manager of specialty pharmacy services at the plan. “We have a pretty comparatively high population” of people with hemophilia, and “clients were coming to us” for effective management strategies. New therapies — as well as a crowded pipeline — mean there is “a big opportunity to potentially save money.”

Of Highmark’s 4.5 million members, approximately 190 have a hemophilia diagnosis, and the health plan says it spends about $80 million annually on their care, with pharmacy costs making up about 90% of that.

The partners will be able to obtain the therapies at competitive rates, in large part because they “have more volume,” says Ned Finn, director of specialty pharmacy services at the insurer.

Highmark and the providers have performance guarantees and oversight protocols in place. Plan members not only will receive better care, but members and health plan clients will see potential cost savings of “15% or so,” says Burke.

“There are a number of guarantees,” Drew Walk, Soleo’s CEO, says, that are “focused on reducing waste and overall cost of care,” as well as “improving patient outcomes.…There are clinical and financial outcomes measurements.” Hemophilia is a “unique” condition which requires “monitoring individual patient response,” he notes. The key, he maintains, is to “not be too obtrusive” in management but to “intervene when necessary and provide a good patient experience. It’s more than just dispensing the product.”

If a product experiences a shortage or goes off the market temporarily, “we have direct lines of communication with the providers” to handle the situation, says Burke. “These pharmacies are very experienced with knowing how to handle this.”

Radar On Market Access: New Acute Migraine Medications May Not Shake Up Formularies

December 5, 2019

New oral medications for acute migraine — one pending launch and two more that could be approved in the coming months — likely won’t shake up formulary coverage for a condition that’s largely treated by generic triptan medications, pharmacy benefit experts tell AIS Health.

New oral medications for acute migraine — one pending launch and two more that could be approved in the coming months — likely won’t shake up formulary coverage for a condition that’s largely treated by generic triptan medications, pharmacy benefit experts tell AIS Health.

Eli Lilly and Co. on Oct. 11 received FDA approval for its drug Reyvow (lasmiditan), an oral medication that’s the first serotonin (5-HT)1F receptor agonist to be approved for migraine. Meanwhile, Allergan on Nov. 19 said it’s on track for December FDA consideration of ubrogepant, an oral CGRP receptor antagonist for acute migraine. Biohaven Pharmaceuticals also has applied for FDA approval on its oral CGRP antagonist rimegepant.

Mesfin Tegenu, R.Ph., president of PerformRx, doesn’t expect widespread uptake of Reyvow. “The launch of lasmiditan will likely not change the formulary status quo when it hits the market, as it most likely will become a niche medication for patients inadequately controlled on triptans, or for those who cannot take triptans,” Tegenu tells AIS Health. “This is primarily due to warnings on the label for driving impairment and central nervous system depression.”

PBMs could have the chance to consider how to handle Reyvow and ubrogepant soon, although it’s not clear how soon. Eli Lilly hasn’t yet set a launch date for Reyvow, while Allergan said it expects ubrogepant to be the first approved oral CGRP receptor antagonist for the acute treatment of migraine.

“As with any new product, [ubrogepant] will need to be analyzed as part of the class of drugs for this indication,” Tegenu says. “Since this is the first oral version of a CGRP antagonist, it does have some administration advantages over injectable products.”

Payers can implement utilization management programs that direct use of these new drugs to those who have failed or cannot tolerate triptans, says Nicole Kjesbo, principal clinical program pharmacist with Prime Therapeutics LLC. “Additionally, payers will consider exclusion strategies and potentially value-based contracts as a means to manage cost and appropriate therapy,” she says.

Radar On Market Access: Amid Budget Standoff, North Carolina Delays Medicaid Transformation

December 3, 2019

In the middle of an epic budget standoff between the state’s Democratic governor and the Republican-controlled legislature over Medicaid expansion and teacher pay, North Carolina’s plan to transfer some 1.6 million Medicaid enrollees into managed care in February is now indefinitely delayed, the North Carolina Dept. of Health and Human Services (DHHS) said on Nov. 19.

In the middle of an epic budget standoff between the state’s Democratic governor and the Republican-controlled legislature over Medicaid expansion and teacher pay, North Carolina’s plan to transfer some 1.6 million Medicaid enrollees into managed care in February is now indefinitely delayed, the North Carolina Dept. of Health and Human Services (DHHS) said on Nov. 19.

Because the North Carolina General Assembly adjourned on Nov. 15 without providing the needed funds and program authority for a Feb. 1, 2020, managed care start date, said DHHS, it has suspended implementation and open enrollment, which began for part of the state in July and went statewide in October.

With an estimated annual spend of approximately $13 billion, North Carolina is the largest state in terms of Medicaid expenditures that has not yet made the move to managed care. And the five managed care organizations taking part in North Carolina’s Medicaid transformation began enrolling beneficiaries on Oct. 14.

Taylor Griffin, a spokesperson for the NC Association of Health Plans, tells the AIS Health that the MCOs are ready to go live on schedule. “Once the state approves a budget, health plans are fully prepared to serve North Carolina’s Medicaid managed care recipients,” he tells AIS Health.

AmeriHealth Caritas North Carolina, one of the insurers contracted to serve the new Medicaid program, said it “remains committed to helping North Carolina bring about its innovative plan for Medicaid transformation” and does not intend to lay off any staff, as one GOP lawmaker had suggested insurers would be forced to do.

But one industry expert cautions against the statewide implementation. “When you push everything statewide all at once, your problems tend to magnify and it becomes very, very challenging for a state to manage not just the beneficiaries — figuring out where to go, how to go, all of that — but the state to manage their five contracted [payers],” remarks Jeff Myers, former Medicaid Health Plans of America president and founder of health care consultancy OptDis.

Radar On Market Access: Trump Administration’s Transparency Rules Are Part of Larger Effort

November 28, 2019

On Nov. 15, the Trump administration released two rules — one final, one proposed — outlining new price transparency requirements for hospitals and health insurers, which the industry has long warned will impede competitive rate negotiations without actually benefiting patients, AIS Health reported.

On Nov. 15, the Trump administration released two rules — one final, one proposed — outlining new price transparency requirements for hospitals and health insurers, which the industry has long warned will impede competitive rate negotiations without actually benefiting patients, AIS Health reported.

In the proposed rule, slated for publication in the Nov. 27 Federal Register, the administration would require all non-grandfathered group and individual health plans to:

  • Provide consumers with personalized out-of-pocket cost information for all covered health care items and services through an “internet-based self-service tool” and in paper form upon request, and
  • Make their negotiated rates with in-network providers and historical allowed amounts to out-of-network providers available to the public in “standardized, regularly updated machine-readable files.”

In a simultaneously issued final rule, the administration outlines transparency requirements for hospitals. It says they must make public, in a machine-readable format, all “standard charges” for items and services — which the rule defines as gross charges, payer-specific negotiated charges, de-identified minimum and maximum negotiated charges, and discounted cash prices. Plus, hospitals will have to publicly post standard charges for at least 300 “shoppable services” in a consumer-friendly format.

Previously, “standard charges” simply meant hospital chargemaster prices, explains David Kaufman, a partner at Laurus Law Group LLC and former general counsel of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois. Whether CMS is allowed to expand that to include negotiated rates is “going to be the key issue” in a court challenge that hospital groups have promised to file, he tells AIS Health.

But while legal challenges could delay or even prevent one or both rules from being implemented, that doesn’t mean health care organizations have nothing to worry about, says attorney Katie Keith, a principal at Keith Policy Solutions, LLC.

“I guess if I was in the industry, I wouldn’t have my head in the sand about this,” she says. “Insurance companies, to the extent that they have not developed these tools and are not working on this and are not focused on transparency, it does seem like they’re going to want to increase focus on it, because I don’t know that every lawsuit will be successful.”

Radar On Market Access: National and Regional Players Make Dual Eligible SNP Moves

November 26, 2019

Through strategic acquisitions, product launches and geographic expansions, Medicare Advantage insurers across the U.S. are offering new Special Needs Plans (SNPs) aimed at improving the lives of members who are dually eligible for Medicare and Medicaid, AIS Health reported.

Through strategic acquisitions, product launches and geographic expansions, Medicare Advantage insurers across the U.S. are offering new Special Needs Plans (SNPs) aimed at improving the lives of members who are dually eligible for Medicare and Medicaid, AIS Health reported.

According to an analysis of the 2020 “landscape” files posted by CMS in September, Chicago health care consultancy Clear View Solutions, LLC, estimates that there are 171 net new SNP IDs, up from 60 net new plans in 2019. And 97 of those net new plans are dual eligible SNPs, compared with 47 D-SNPs that were introduced for 2019.

“I do think there is some ‘pent up energy’ from plans, and now that there is clarity with permanency and the requirements for integration, plans are ready to move forward,” Cheryl Phillips, M.D., CEO of the SNP Alliance, says in an email to AIS Health.

Phillips says plans may also be “working to better position themselves” for managed long-term services and supports, as states sharpen their focus on rebalancing their long-term care populations and shift more of the responsibility to managed care organizations.

A review of the new D-SNP offerings for 2020 indicates that larger players such as Anthem, Inc., Centene Corp., Humana Inc., Molina Healthcare, Inc. and UnitedHealthcare are leading the charge, but numerous plans have been introduced on a local level.

For instance, UCare, the largest provider of SNPs in Minnesota, said it is expanding its UCare Connect + Medicare plans to mirror the 62-county UCare Connect service area. And Priority Health is preparing to launch its first D-SNP, which will serve all 68 counties of Michigan’s lower peninsula.

Radar On Market Access: CVS Health, Cigna Tout Benefits of PBM-Insurer Integration

November 21, 2019

Cigna Corp. and CVS Health Corp. — organizations that both recently combined a PBM and a health insurance business — are striving to prove to investors that they’re seeing valuable benefits from such vertical consolidation, AIS Health reported.

Cigna Corp. and CVS Health Corp. — organizations that both recently combined a PBM and a health insurance business — are striving to prove to investors that they’re seeing valuable benefits from such vertical consolidation, AIS Health reported.

Executives from CVS, which purchased Aetna Inc. in late 2018, during the company’s third-quarter 2019 earnings call said that having such a diversified enterprise is helping it win over PBM clients for its Caremark division.

For the 2020 PBM selling season, “our focus was to go to market with a more integrated medical-pharmacy offering,” said Karen Lynch, CVS Health executive vice president and Aetna president, according to a transcript of the call from Thomson Reuters. To that end, she noted that Caremark saw “increased traction in overall pharmacy penetration” for its employer-sponsored business, particularly among Aetna’s existing medical-benefits clients.

While CVS has won $4.9 billion in gross new business during the 2020 PBM selling season, — up from the $3.8 billion that it previously projected — “net new business is projected to be down -$6.4B overall (vs. -$7.4B previously),” due to the loss of Centene Corp.’s business and other non-renewals, Citi Research analyst Ralph Giacobbe wrote in a Nov. 6 note.

Cigna, which purchased Express Scripts Holding Co. in 2018, said a major driver of its better-than-expected quarterly financial results was the performance of its health services segment, which includes its PBM business. That book of business reported pretax operating earnings of $1.4 billion, which beat Wall Street’s consensus of $1.36 billion and far surpassed the $67 million it earned in the third quarter of 2018 — before Cigna’s purchase of Express Scripts closed.

“We were most encouraged by the PBM earnings step-up, increasing confidence [Cigna] will achieve its 2019 [earnings] target,” Jefferies analysts wrote in an Oct. 31 research note. Cigna raised its 2019 earnings per share estimate to a range of $16.80 to $17.00.