Per recent surveys, prescription drug prices are projected to slow their meteoric rise in 2018. While that’s good news in general, concerns persist that within the small group market that Rx costs will continue to increase.

And as smaller employers are hammered by rising health insurance premiums, it is becoming more challenging for even the savviest small business owner to offer a benefits package that offsets the skyrocketing price of prescription medicines.

For benefit advisers, the opportunity to offer clients a solution that tames the prescription drug monster is ripe for the taking. But this means understanding all the available options—including the cost differences between brand name and generic medications, and whether a prescription drug card savings program might make sense for a small business and its employees.

When working with clients, advisers should be sure to consider the following:

Employee access to prescriptions
This will be changing dramatically in the near future. Industry consolidation, including CVS Health’s pending bid to buy Aetna and the proposed acquisition of Rite Aid by Albertsons, has created uncertainty about the best ways for employees to fill prescription medications as familiar outlets disappear or take on new missions. Cost-effective, close-to-home access to their prescription medications on short notice is an important dimension of any pharmacy plan, and one that advisers should be considering going forward.

Rx search directories
The internet has made it possible to access Rx information with the click of a mouse or the swipe of a finger. Online prescription drug directories allow employers to price out monthly and annual costs for generic and brand name medications, and this allows them to choose health plans that do the best job of covering their employees’ anticipated prescription requirements. Advisers who take the time to do this research for their clients and present benefit plan options based on the estimated costs of the medications that their employee populations will require will be doing them an invaluable service.

No-cost, value-added prescription drug programs
Value-added prescription drug discount programs are another way for employers and their employees to control their prescription drug costs. For example, a discount card program may offer significant savings to employees at thousands of pharmacies nationwide. Advisers should establish partnerships with these and similar programs for the benefit of their clients.

Small businesses have little control when it comes to the set price of a prescription medication. Advisers can help by meeting with small groups of clients and walking them through their prescription drug options. Knowledge is power, and by choosing their best option, even if employers can’t cage the prescription drug monster, at least they will be able to keep it on a leash.

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Ron Goldstein

Ron Goldstein

Goldstein, CLU, is president and CEO of CHOICE Administrators, which provides health and ancillary insurance options and provider access to small businesses and their employees.