PHARMACY

Aon Consulting survey finds healthcare costs will climb over 10%

BY Michael Johnsen

CHICAGO Healthcare costs are expected to increase on average 10.5% in the next 12 months, Aon Consulting announced Tuesday.

Aon Consulting surveyed more than 60 healthcare insurers, representing more than 100 million insured individuals, and found that health care costs are projected to increase by 10.4% for health maintenance organizations (HMOs), 10.4% for point-of-service healthcare plans, 10.7% for preferred provider organization (PPOs) and 10.5% for consumer-driven health plans.

These are slightly lower than one year ago, when HMO cost increases were 10.6% and POS plans were 10.5%.

“This data helps employers evaluate the competitiveness of health insurance premium renewals,” stated John Zern, Aon Consulting’s U.S. Health & Benefits Practice director. For employers with self-funded health plans, it helps in developing future claim estimates for budgeting purposes.

“While we’re seeing a slight decrease in the trend rates, it’s still at double digits, and this year, it’s compounded by a struggling economy, lower wage increases, and in some cases, salary freezes,” Zern added.

Aon Consulting’s U.S. Health & Benefits chief medical officer, Paul Berger, acknowledges there has been progress in lowering the medical trend rate during the last several years, but emphasizes there’s still significant work to be done. He suggests wellness and health promotion initiatives are critical in the next phase of lowering the medical trend rate.

“Approximately 30% of workers have chronic medical conditions, which account for 65% of this nation’s medical spend,” Berger said. “Wellness programs provide a strong platform for effectively managing chronic conditions and preventing future problems, but it’s up to the individual to take advantage of the programs offered. Behavior change is never easy, but those willing to make changes in this capacity benefit from better health and lower healthcare costs.”

Prescription drug costs are expected to increase 9.3%, which is slightly lower than the 9.4% trend rate one year ago. The specialty pharmacy trend rate is 13.2%, up from 12.4% one year ago. Aon Consulting points to the sluggish rate of drug adoption across the board, compounded by the FDA’s reduced rate of drug approvals – especially for new molecular entities and biologic products – as the contributing factors leading to this decline.

In addition, healthcare rate increases for retirees over the age of 65 are projected to be 6.6% for Medicare Supplement plans and 7.3% for Medicare Advantage plans, down from 7.3% and 7.7%, respectively, one year ago.

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PHARMACY

NACDS utilizes Rapid Response program to dispute inaccurate assertions on drug importation

BY Allison Cerra

ALEXANDRIA, Va. The National Association of Chain Drug Stores implemented its Rapid Response Program, following a recent editorial on drug importation.

NACDS president and CEO Steve Anderson penned a response to the editor to the Delaware County Daily Times (Delaware County, Pa.) after an editorial ran on Aug. 19, which cited NACDS and asserted that chain drug stores should not be concerned about where prescription medications come from so long as they are less expensive for consumers to purchase.

“Pharmacies are convenient, accessible healthcare providers. Your neighborhood pharmacist counsels patients in obtaining the most cost effective and appropriate medications and therapies to improve their health outcomes,” Anderson wrote to the paper. “However, we do not believe that consumer safety should be compromised to achieve lower costs. Safety cannot be ensured in any system that allows for the personal importation of prescription medications.  In addition, individuals who obtain prescription medications through a personal importation scheme do not have a licensed pharmacist available to consult with them about using the medications safely and effectively.”

The NACDS Rapid Response Program was created to address inaccurate or inappropriate portrayals of pharmacy, or call attention to an issue that impacts the pharmacy industry.

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Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee set in motion

BY Alaric DeArment

ROCKVILLE, Md. The Food and Drug Administration has started exercising its newfound power to regulate tobacco.

The agency announced Tuesday the establishment of the Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee as part of the implementation of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which President Obama signed into law in June.

The committee will provide advice, information and recommendations to FDA commissioner Margaret Hamburg on health and other issues related to tobacco products. It will comprise 12 members, including nine medical, science and manufacturing technology experts and government officials who will each have a vote, and three industry representatives who will not.

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