State Medicaid programs are weighing their options now that the Clinton administration has said they must cover medically approved uses of Viagra, Pfizer's anti-impotence medication. States retain the option oflimiting the number of doses of the drug they'll pay for, and last month New Jersey did just that. It imposed a cap of four doses a month for men who receive drug coverage from the state, including state employees, Medicaid beneficiaries and senior citizens who are in New Jersey's Pharmaceutical Assistance for the Aged and Disabled program.

New Jersey set the limit after finding that it spent $483,000 on the drug in one month. It joined Florida and Alabama in setting a four-dose monthly limit. Utah has approved up to 10 doses a month, while Arkansas, Louisiana and Maryland pay for six. Pfizer recommends that states subsidize 10 pills per month.

Prior to the federal directive, Medicaid programs in California, New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and Michigan said they would not cover Viagra.

The debate over covering Viagra centers on whether a treatment for sexual dysfunction should be considered medically necessary when public dollars are at stake. If the answer is yes, then states might have to pay for other medications aimed at improving quality of life. Viagra has an undiscounted retail price of $10 a pill, but states pay $7.70.

With a few exceptions, such as fertility drugs, antibaldness agents and diet medications, Medicaid is legally required to cover all FDA-approved medications deemed medically necessary. Some Medicaid programs are considering an effort to have Viagra defined as a fertility drug to provide a legal basis for not paying for it.

Managed Care’s Top Ten Articles of 2016

There’s a lot more going on in health care than mergers (Aetna-Humana, Anthem-Cigna) creating huge players. Hundreds of insurers operate in 50 different states. Self-insured employers, ACA public exchanges, Medicare Advantage, and Medicaid managed care plans crowd an increasingly complex market.

Major health care players are determined to make health information exchanges (HIEs) work. The push toward value-based payment alone almost guarantees that HIEs will be tweaked, poked, prodded, and overhauled until they deliver on their promise. The goal: straight talk from and among tech systems.

They bring a different mindset. They’re willing to work in teams and focus on the sort of evidence-based medicine that can guide health care’s transformation into a system based on value. One question: How well will this new generation of data-driven MDs deal with patients?

The surge of new MS treatments have been for the relapsing-remitting form of the disease. There’s hope for sufferers of a different form of MS. By homing in on CD20-positive B cells, ocrelizumab is able to knock them out and other aberrant B cells circulating in the bloodstream.

A flood of tests have insurers ramping up prior authorization and utilization review. Information overload is a problem. As doctors struggle to keep up, health plans need to get ahead of the development of the technology in order to successfully manage genetic testing appropriately.

Having the data is one thing. Knowing how to use it is another. Applying its computational power to the data, a company called RowdMap puts providers into high-, medium-, and low-value buckets compared with peers in their markets, using specific benchmarks to show why outliers differ from the norm.
Competition among manufacturers, industry consolidation, and capitalization on me-too drugs are cranking up generic and branded drug prices. This increase has compelled PBMs, health plan sponsors, and retail pharmacies to find novel ways to turn a profit, often at the expense of the consumer.
The development of recombinant DNA and other technologies has added a new dimension to care. These medications have revolutionized the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and many of the other 80 or so autoimmune diseases. But they can be budget busters and have a tricky side effect profile.

Shelley Slade
Vogel, Slade & Goldstein

Hub programs have emerged as a profitable new line of business in the sales and distribution side of the pharmaceutical industry that has got more than its fair share of wheeling and dealing. But they spell trouble if they spark collusion, threaten patients, or waste federal dollars.

More companies are self-insuring—and it’s not just large employers that are striking out on their own. The percentage of employers who fully self-insure increased by 44% in 1999 to 63% in 2015. Self-insurance may give employers more control over benefit packages, and stop-loss protects them against uncapped liability.