Specialty drugs main driver of employers' health insurance costs

The rising cost of specialty drugs is the number one driver of healthcare expenses for large employers, according to a survey released Tuesday by the National Business Group on Health.

Although specialty drugs are used by less than 4 percent of the population, 31 percent of employers in the survey listed them as the top concern for healthcare costs, reported Washington Business Journal.

"Specialty drugs weren't even considered among the top five drivers of health costs in the same survey just three years ago," said Brian Marcotte, president and CEO of the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit.

With even more specialty medications coming down the pipeline in the near future, Mr. Marcotte projects a 17 percent jump in specialty drug costs.

In the survey, employers indicated plans of adopting "utilization management protocols" that help manage costs by influencing patient care decision-making on a case-by-case assessment.

Some companies are forming specialty tiers within their pharmacy benefits and requiring employees to obtain their specialty drugs only from specialty pharmacies.

Employers are also shifting focus from plan design changes to increased offerings of value-based care from affordable care networks and high-performance networks of providers.

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