Since 2009, Premera Blue Cross’s LifeWise unit has sold a high-deductible plan called Wise Essentials Rx, the only catastrophic-type plan in the state offering drug coverage. Its enrollment quickly zoomed to 45,000. But that plan and Lifewise’s standard plan covered only generic, not brand-name, prescriptions.
Earlier this year, Premera’s two main rivals, Regence BlueShield and Group Health Cooperative, filed requests to switch their standard plans for individuals from full to generic-only drug coverage. Group Health said it doesn’t favor a generic-only benefit but feared its plan otherwise would get swamped with sicker enrollees who couldn’t get brand-name drugs in other plans. All three insurers have reported losing money in the individual market.
Those requests prompted Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler to issue an emergency rule in February barring generic-only coverage. He said patients with multiple sclerosis, some types of cancer, AIDS, rheumatoid arthritis and certain forms of mental illness can’t necessarily be treated effectively with generics. The insurers’ moves, he warned, would leave most Washingtonians in the individual market without adequate drug coverage.Click the link above for more on this situation, and why we responded the way we did.