PHARMACY

Highmark introduces Plan Cost Adviser site for consumers

BY Michael Johnsen

PITTSBURGH Self-care may become easier to navigate.

Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield, which represents 3.1 million lives, on Monday introduced a new tool to help consumers compare health plan options to choose one that best suits their needs.

“Choosing a health plan is often intimidating to consumers,” stated Kim Bellard, vice president of e-marketing and customer relationship management. “This is especially true now that consumers are more likely to be faced with not just increased cost-sharing but also various types of tax-preferred spending accounts, such as health savings accounts. The Plan Cost Advisor helps consumers model their estimated out-of-pocket spending for the different health plan options they may have.”

The Plan Cost Advisor is available to consumers on Highmark member Web sites.

To begin using the Plan Cost Advisor, consumers enter basic information about family, health conditions and health plan options. Plan Cost Advisor analyzes the information that is entered by the consumer and projects the next year’s medical spending for each health plan option with a breakdown for copays, deductibles and coinsurance.

The tool then shows consumers estimated out-of-pocket spending, taking into account any payroll contributions as well as any benefit cost-sharing for each health plan option entered. Plan Cost Advisor also helps users with HSAs or other spending accounts model the impacts of various contributions to the account.

“Highmark was a pioneer in giving consumers online tools to help them more effectively select the right health plan when we introduced BlueChoice in May 2000,” Bellard said. “Plan Cost Advisor further leverages our consumerism expertise and our health analytics capabilities to produce an additional way for consumers to have a greater hand in their health care decisions.”

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PHARMACY

FDA to consider using symbols, color coding on nutrition labels

BY Allison Cerra

WASHINGTON The Food and Drug Administration is considering adding symbols to nutrition labels to help make shopping for healthier choices a simpler task, officials revealed on Monday.

Similar to a traffic light system, future nutrition labels may rank foods by a red, yellow or green mark to allow shoppers to decipher between food that is low or high in fat, sugar or salt.

The system is already used in Great Britain, but officials have pointed out that any steps towards updating nutrition labels are for now, just an idea.

Some food manufacturers, like PepsiCo, have used their “Smart Spot” symbols on everything from diet sodas to potato chips to show consumers they are enjoying the foods they love without sacrificing their health in the process.

Ann Marie Krautheim, a nutrition expert National Dairy Council, said setting up a consistent system would be helpful, if it was tested on consumers to assure its effectiveness. Krautheim also said, however, the Council’s own research proved that consumers were more likely to choose taste over nutrition.

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PHARMACY

Wedgewood Pharmacy technician training program gets approval

BY Drew Buono

SWEDESBORO, N.J. Wedgewood Pharmacy, the largest compounding pharmacy in the United States, has announced that the New Jersey Board of Pharmacy has approved a 14-module, eight-hour program for training technicians.

When the program is completed, each technician must complete an examination and demonstrate a high level of understanding in all state rules and statutes concerning pharmacy, HIPPA regulations, and the company’s own quality standards.

The company also has monthly training services for all of its technicians, which is required by the company.

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