Survey: 84% of Patients Don’t Support ‘Patient Steering’

The majority of those surveyed also said insurers should not require patients to use pharmacies owned by the insurer.

The majority of people want insurance payers to pay pharmacies fairly and feel that those payers should not be able to tell them which pharmacies to use, according to a new survey from the National Community Pharmacists Association.

Conducted by Public Policy Polling, the national survey of 716 registered voters, the survey indicated that 84 percent of respondents said health insurance plans and their pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) should not tell patients which pharmacies to use; the practice known as “patient steering.”

More specifically, 78 percent of those surveyed said insurance plans and PBMs should not require patients to use pharmacies owned by insurance plans and PBMs, or be allowed to require patients to get their medicines through an insurance company’s mail-order pharmacy.

Additionally, 83 percent of respondents said insurance plans and PBMs should not require patients to use more expensive medicines when there is a less expensive alternative.

“Being able to choose their pharmacy continues to be a patient priority,” said B. Douglas Hoey, pharmacist, MBA, the CEO of NCPA. “Despite the pandemic having changed other consumer behaviors, they want access to a local health care provider who knows them and will help them find the best, most affordable treatments.”

Other findings:

  • Nearly 60 percent said it isn’t fair that low insurance and PBM reimbursements to pharmacies for buying and safely dispensing drugs often means the pharmacy loses money on prescriptions.
  • Fifty percent said insurance companies and PBMs should reimburse pharmacies dispensing new Covid-19 oral antiviral medicines enough to cover the cost of the drug, the costs to dispense the drug and to make a small profit.
  • And 32 percent said insurance companies and PBMs should reimburse at least enough for the pharmacy to just cover its costs, which is roughly $40.
  • Nearly three-quarters said that the $1 reimbursements sometimes being seen by pharmacists are not fair.

“Patients understand that pharmacies are unlikely to be able to offer these vital therapies if miserly insurance companies hoard the patient’s monthly premiums for their own corporate gain rather than acknowledging the pharmacist’s extra time and coordination that goes into making sure patients are safe and get the most benefit from these potent drugs,” Hoey said. “They know intuitively that access to drugs will dry up and pharmacies will close. Policymakers must acknowledge this too, and they should take action..”

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