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SACUA hears answers to prescription drug questions

Members of the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs (SACUA) have been expressing concerns for several months about a new prescription drug plan set to take effect next year. Last week, they had the opportunity to address questions about the plan to members of the Prescription Drug Program Oversight Committee (PDPOC), the Pharmaceutical Benefit Advisory Committee (PBAC) and the Benefits Office.

The University has hired AdvancePCS as the single vendor to manage the prescription drug program, in consultation with the oversight committee. Members of the PDPOC said the move to a single prescription program manager was done in order to curb the escalating costs of prescription drugs.

"It really is essential for the University to take control of the pharmaceutical experience of its participants if it wants to avoid what's happening in the outside world," Jack Billi, chair of the oversight committee, said during the Nov. 4 meeting.

A chief concern SACUA members have expressed is how much a three-tier system, calling for co-payments of $7, $14 and $24 (instead of the current $7 and $14), will increase costs to members. Benefits Director Marty Eichstadt showed the group figures that project a total cost to members of $9.9 million, down from this year's anticipated cost of $11.5 million. The document estimated the University's share of the drug plan to increase by some $3.7 million.

Jeoffrey Stross, chair of the PBAC, explained that having the oversight committee to make sure generic and less expensive preferred name brand drugs are available, when possible, will prevent most people from having to pay the top tier.

"The world is going generic," Stross said. "We expect to see very, very dramatic changes in the use of generic drugs. A lot of co-pays will go down."

Stross said that, for the most part, only those members requiring new drugs that don't yet have a generic counterpart, or the occasional member who cannot tolerate an ingredient in the generic or who does not respond to the less expensive drug, will have to pay at the top level.

"The goal is to get the best drugs for our people, while lowering the cost to our employees," Billi said.

A concern expressed by SACUA Chair Charles Koopmann, was that the encouragement of mail order prescriptions, which allow members to order a three-month supply at one time, takes money from local pharmacies. Eichstadt said mail purchasing is much less costly, but added that only about 12-15 percent of members use the method of buying.

Following the meeting, Koopmann said he felt the benefits representatives had "good answers" to SACUA members' questions. "It's still a work in progress, but I think many concerns have been answered," he said. "Are we happy with everything that's happened? Probably not. But they made a good faith effort."

The representatives will be present at the Nov. 18 Faculty Senate meeting to address questions as well.





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