Thursday, June 7, 2012

Open letter from Commissioner Kreidler to Premera and LifeWise policyholders

Our office has denied requests from Premera Blue Cross to strip some of the company's health plans of vital prescription drug coverage.

Premera filed a request with our office in late April, seeking approval to remove all prescription drug coverage from its small employer plans. These are plans sold to employers with 1-50 employees. Premera subsidiary Lifewise filed a request to remove drugs from all of its catastrophic (meaning high-deductible) plans.

Commissioner Kreidler disapproved those requests. Here's an open letter from the commissioner to Premera and Lifewise policyholders. From the letter:

Let me be clear: Contrary to what Premera has implied, your health plan can keep generic drug coverage and even require you to use a generic drug first. Nothing in my recent decision restricts your health plan from covering generic drugs.But if you get sick and a generic drug doesn’t exist for your condition or doesn’t work for you, your health insurer must let you try a brand-name drug that could work.

I understand that generic drugs may work for many people most of the time, but it’s my job to protect all insurance consumers. There are some diseases for which generic drugs may not work, such as certain cancers and mental illnesses, diabetes, MS, certain types of arthritis, and AIDS.

Legally, if a plan has prescription drug coverage it cannot restrict someone’s access to a prescription drug that could be vital to a medical condition that’s otherwise covered by the plan and for which they’ve paid a premium.