DRUG BENEFITS: Dept. Of Corporations To Hold Hearings On Coverage
The state Department of Corporations, which regulates California's managed care industry, will hold hearings next month on HMOs' drug benefits plans. "As regulators, we have been monitoring the rapid emergence of new 'wonder drugs' now on the market. The department needs to understand more completely the degree to which these new drugs are available to the more than 20 million Californians enrolled in HMOs," said Dale Bonner, commissioner of the department. "We also need to fully consider the impact that these new wonder drugs have on the quality and accessibility of health care provided by health plans in California," Bonner said Tuesday in announcing plans for the hearings (release, 7/15).
Never Underestimate The Power Of Viagra
The Sacramento Bee reports that the hearings were "[p]rompted by controversy over the anti-impotence pill Viagra." The "question of what drugs HMOs agree to cover ... was drawn into the spotlight after Kaiser Permanente" announced it would not cover Viagra. The Dept. of Corporations hearings, however, "will focus on a wide range of pharmaceuticals," the Bee reports. "Hopefully this is a late but welcome attempt to determine where HMOs violate this prohibition on money dictating to medicine," said Jamie Court of Consumers for Quality Care (Young, 7/16). In April, the department began gathering information from health plans regarding the types of prescription drugs they cover and the amount of copays for certain drugs. Last month, Gov. Pete Wilson signed two bills into law that would give HMO patients greater access to prescription drugs (release, 7/15). Click here for California Healthline coverage of the two new laws, or click AB 974 and SB 625 to read the laws' texts.