2021 // Issue 1

Consultant Connections is a quarterly newsletter, specifically for employee benefit consultants, dedicated to providing details and data needed to help employer clients maintain high-quality care for their plan participants while keeping prescription drug and related health care costs sustainable.

Thank You

I’m appreciative of each consultant who gave us bid opportunities in 2020, of those who entrusted our team by awarding us business and of everyone who continues to work with Employers Health on our shared clients. Our team takes seriously the trust you place in us to deliver on the promises we’ve made to you and the plan sponsors participating in our solution.

Employers Health recorded another strong growth year in 2020, adding more than $260 million to our solutions with CVS, OptumRx and Elixir. For each new client, our solution was independently evaluated by the consultant of their choosing. We have confidence in our solution and take pride in our ability to have our work externally verified. The real reward, however, comes when we’re able to see the results of our work match the projections and promises we’ve made.

I’ve heard it multiple times from consultants this year; “One of the best things about Employers Health is that you actually perform like I’ve projected.” There’s a good reason for this – we are transparent about our contract, work to keep a clean contract void of unnecessary pricing caveats and work in partnership with consultants to ensure our contract translates accurately to their models. We don’t like surprises and know that you don’t either.

We’re excited for this year’s Pharmacy Benefits Conference which is being held virtually starting in March. I hope that you are able to join us for one, several or all of the great sessions that we have planned. Learn more at employershealthco.com/events.

Michael Stull
Chief Strategy Officer

Specialty Drug
Management Priorities

Any survey of plan sponsors makes it abundantly clear – effectively managing specialty drug costs continues to be a top priority! For the Employers Health book-of-business in 2020, specialty drug claims represented 1.4% of total claims and drove 47% of gross cost. There are a number of actions we are taking in 2021 and beyond to help our clients better manage this growing spend.


Specialty drug price inflation accounted for 7.3% of the overall increase in specialty drug spend, pre-rebate. With each annual market check, we focus on ways to improve the unit prices of specialty drugs through combinations of improved discounts, rebate guarantees, formulary options and contractual definitions.


The clinical team at Employers Health looks each week at those medications filled and reimbursed under our book of business that hit certain dollar thresholds. For new fills, we work to understand the approval process and the potential duration of therapy and communicate this information to clients. For refills, we look for opportunities to check-in with patients and providers to ensure that medications are accomplishing their desired clinical effects.


Our clinical pharmacists work with each contracted PBM to understand the criteria used for determining whether a specialty drug is right for a particular patient and how those criteria compare to other plans in the market. In cases where we believe tighter criteria are appropriate, we work with the PBM to understand the impact and administration of such changes on both the financial guarantees and the patient experience. The clinical team regularly monitors PA approval rates by drug and indication.


Hearing the desire from our clients to offer third-party options for specialty prior authorization services, we worked with our PBM suppliers to integrate a concurrent process that offers plans a “second opinion” on approvals for specialty medications that cost more than a certain threshold. Contracting with ELMC and US-RxCare, clients can opt to have clinical pharmacists at these third-party organizations review certain high-cost specialty medication approvals made by the PBM and ensure that the PBMs’ own criteria has been adequately met, documented and followed-up on. While the PBMs have a high level of accuracy in their prior authorization process, we know that with the climbing annual cost of specialty medications that finding only a few opportunities for edits can save a plan significant dollars. This service also doesn’t require additional administration for the patient or plan sponsor and preserves rebate guarantees.


The explosion of copay assistance programs has presented an opportunity for both plan sponsors and patients to benefit. For qualifying plans, a variable copay strategy can provide additional savings to plans through accessing more or all of a particular drug’s annual copay assistance dollar threshold. At the same time, participants benefit from a zero dollar copay for medications included in the program. Early results from Employers Health clients that participate in CVS’ PrudentRx solution show plans saving a significant amount of their specialty pharmacy spend while providing an enhanced benefit for participants. Better yet, plans still qualify for the rebate guarantees outlined in the contract. Clients in the OptumRx and Elixir contracts are also beginning to evaluate and implement similar strategies and we are eager to see the results. Every day, the team at Employers Health is analyzing our book-of-business data and evaluating potential solutions to help our clients curb their specialty spend while balancing the need for savings with administrative feasibility and participant disruption. Our current priorities focus on ensuring that clients implement sound clinical management strategies and benefit from market opportunities as they present themselves.