Opportunities and challenges will continue to face the rheumatology community in 2017. In response to these challenges, the ACR has outlined its federal– and state-level legislative and regulatory healthcare priorities for the year.
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Howard Blumstein, MD, chair of the ACR Affiliate Society Council, says that achieving at least some of these priorities at the state level will mean continuing to strengthen state societies and physician representation in state capitols around the country.
“As we head into the next executive regime, it’s likely states will have more of a say, so I think it will be more important to have strong societies and rheumatologists willing to advocate for our patients,” Dr. Blumstein says.
4 Key Areas
Following extensive discussion, which culminates in the recommendation of a policy framework to the ACR Board of Directors, members of the ACR’s Government Affairs Committee (GAC) identified four key areas for state-level efforts this year:
- Reducing the use and impact of step therapy formulary practices by all payers;
- Streamlining prior authorization processes and forms;
- Eliminating specialty drug cost tiering by all payers; and
- Supporting a biosimilars marketplace that provides protection from inappropriate substitution practices and forced switching.
With respect to step therapy—in which insurers require patients to first try and fail one therapy before they can try another—Dr. Blumstein says the ACR would like to see “barriers removed” to reduce or eliminate “inappropriate” medication switching.
According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, a number of states have enacted or are considering legislation to address it. This includes New York, Dr. Blumstein says, where Gov. Cuomo signed step therapy legislation on Dec. 31, 2016.
“This culminates the efforts of numerous patient organizations, such as the Lupus and Allied Diseases Association, Lupus Foundation, Arthritis Foundation, and National Psoriasis Foundation, along with physician organizations like state rheumatology societies and the ACR,” says Dr. Blumstein. “This is the perfect example of the types of partnerships that are needed for success.”
Prior authorization can be streamlined through a universal approach, Dr. Blumstein says, providing “a very clear pathway to approval for patients” that would be “less cumbersome” for staff.
Regarding specialty tiers, The Commonwealth Fund recently highlighted the fact that insurers have shifted the cost of drugs onto consumers as prices have risen.1 Several states and the District of Columbia have acted to limit the burden on patients. New York has eliminated specialty tiers altogether. The ACR is working to support legislation in other states, says Angus Worthing, MD, FACR, FACP, chair of the ACR’s Government Affairs Committee (GAC).
Finally, the ACR is examining and commenting on state-level biosimilar legislation, says Dr. Blumstein.
“In some states, biosimilars can be substituted at the pharmacy for another drug that it’s biosimilar to,” says Dr. Worthing. “The ACR is advocating for pharmacists to [be required to] inform patients and prescribers of these substitutions, and we’re also asking for that to happen prior to substitution or as soon as possible after.”
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 36 states have drafted bills around biosimilars, but they vary in their notification or communication of substitution requirements.
National Advocacy as a Model
Overall, Dr. Blumstein would like to see ACR’s strong national advocacy reimagined for state-level efforts. “State legislation usually happens pretty fast,” he says. He believes the ACR’s Key Contact Program, which helps foster relationships between members and legislators, provides a solid foundation. It would require the identification of members willing and able to visit state capitols, sign on to editorials and more.
“We have a model of what it would run like [and] how it would look, and I think that would mirror the federal efforts,” Dr. Blumstein says.
Kelly April Tyrrell writes about health, science and health policy. She lives in Madison, Wis.
- Corlette S, Williams A, Giovannelli J. State efforts to reduce consumers’ cost-sharing for prescription drugs. The Commonwealth Fund Blog. 2015 Nov 16. http://www.commonwealthfund.org/publications/blog/2015/nov/state-efforts-to-reduce-consumers-cost-sharing-for-prescription-drugs.