The Ohio House of Representatives recently passed a bill that would enable patients to use drug manufacturer coupons and other co-pay assistance as payment toward their annual deductible.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, approximately 1 in 4 Americans have difficulty paying for their prescription drugs, while almost half of US adults report difficulty paying out-of-pocket costs not covered by their health insurance.
Supporting the bill that restricts co-pay accumulators are groups such as the Ohio State Medical Association, the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation, Susan C. Komen, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, and the American Diabetes Association. The bill faced faced opposition from health insurers and pharmacy benefit managers, reported The Columbus Dispatch.
"The debate on the management of rising drug costs between manufacturers and insurers unfortunately leaves patients caught in the middle, and practices like co-pay accumulators can have a devastating impact," Monica Hueckel, senior director of government relations for the Ohio State Medical Association, told Medscape Medical News.
"Patients often do not even know about these policies until the coupons are no longer usable. As you can imagine, for patients with expensive medications and/or high deductible health plans, the impact is disastrous," she said.
Ohio State Representative Susan Manchester, who co-sponsored the bill, told The Columbus Dispatch that the legislation "is needed to assist our constituents who find themselves increasingly subjected to more out-of-pocket costs as part of their insurance coverage."
Other States Blocking Health Insurers' Co-Pay Policies
With the passage of the bill, Ohio joins 12 states and Puerto Rico in preventing the use of health insurers' co-pays to increase patients' out-of-pocket costs, reported The Columbus Dispatch; 15 states are also considering this type of legislation.
Eighty-three percent of patients are in plans that include a co-pay accumulator, according to consulting firm Avalere, which wrote that, beginning in 2023, the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services requires patients with Medicaid to receive "the full value of co-pay assistance" on drugs.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, co-pay adjustment programs present challenges for patients, with plans that include high cost sharing or co-insurance whereby a patient pays a percentage of the cost instead of a flat amount.
For example, with a co-pay adjustment policy, a patient with a $2000 deductible plan couldn't use a $500 coupon toward meeting the deductible, writes the National Conference of State Legislatures. Conversely, a patient in a plan without a co-pay adjustment policy could use the coupon to satisfy their annual deductible.
Patients with complex conditions, such as cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, and diabetes, which often require expensive medications, may have little choice but to fork over the unexpected co-pays, according to the organization that represents state legislatures in the United States.