Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Insurers should be current on emerging treatments for consumers

A growing concern for consumers and health insurers is the cost of prescription drugs and specifically, treatment for debilitating and life-threatening diseases.

Hepatitis C is a good example. New drugs are now used to cure this life-threatening liver ailment with proven success. But the pills are costly, ranging from $55,000 to almost $95,000 per patient for a standard 12-week treatment period.

Two nationwide organizations, the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases and the Infectious Disease Society of America, now recommend that most patients receive treatment even if they are in the early stage of the disease versus waiting until it has progressed.

Last November, the federal government encouraged states to ensure that health coverage policies are “informed” by the treatment guidelines noted above. Unfortunately we do not have the authority to mandate that insurance companies abide by the guidelines. However, we do expect insurers to be current on all appropriate guidelines that best serve consumers. That is true for all types of treatments.

We recently asked health insurers in Washington if they were aware of the new guidelines and if they were making any changes to how they were treating patients with this disease. The responses were varied, but there were common themes:

• No company excludes treatment.
• All allow testing to detect the disease.
• All recommend that patients consult their doctors on the best course of action.

What’s also evident is that insurers are trying to manage their claims costs. That’s not unexpected. Future prescription drugs for ailments such as multiple sclerosis and high cholesterol are expected to cost even more than the hepatitis C treatment.

The emphasis for insurers, though, should be on ready access to appropriate treatment that leads to a healthier state and nation overall.

If you believe you’ve not getting access to prescription drugs or other necessary treatment, we can help you understand your rights to appeal and even contact your insurer on your behalf.