Friday, January 25, 2008

Battle of the Bucks

There is a war going on.

The battle is taking place in doctors offices all across the country. It pits the carriers against the pharmaceutical manufacturers.

What is at stake is your wallet.

Carriers are trying to help you become a better consumer of health care. In doing so they are fighting big pharma.

Health plans are drawing scrutiny for offering financial incentives to entice doctors to prescribe cheaper generic medicines, including paying doctors $100 each time they switch a patient from a brand-name drug.

Pharmaceutical companies have long gone to great lengths to try to get doctors to prescribe their brand-name pills. They spend billions of dollars, plying physicians with samples, educational lunches and speaker fees. But as the patents for a growing number of blockbuster medicines expire, some health insurers are trying to trump those perks with bonuses or higher reimbursements for writing more generic prescriptions

So how is it working so far?

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan says the program was a one-time event to take advantage of the recent introduction of simvistatin, the generic equivalent of another brand-name statin, Zocor. It says the $2 million its HMO spent in payments to doctors saved Blue Care Network $5 million in drug costs and its individual members $1 million in co-payments.

Three to one return.

We like it.
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