Step therapy is the requirement that a patient first try less costly medication before being prescribed medication a doctor thinks is best for the individual patient and specific symptoms/history. In the recent past, insurance companies had requested that adults with ADHD first be treated with a short-acting stimulant despite the fact that no short-acting stimulant is FDA approved for the treatment of adult ADHD. More recently, many insurance companies request “prior authorization”. This is a paperwork process to see if the patient can be directed to less costly medication despite the fact that the “recommended alternative” may not last long enough during the day. I’m relieved now with the passage of a new law in Maryland that will prohibit this practice. The following text appeared in the Maryland Psychiatric Society newsletter May 29, 2014. MedChi is the state of Maryland medical association.
MedChi applauds the enactment of SB 622/HB 1233, a bill that addresses a dangerous health insurance practice known as “step therapy.” Step therapy (or “fail first” policy) jeopardizes patient health by requiring them to try and fail on up to five older, less effective treatments before the insurer will cover the treatment originally prescribed. This law protects patients and keeps treatment decisions in the hands of doctors. The Maryland Health Care Commission recently studied step therapy, and Senator Middleton and Delegate Bromwell introduced this bill to codify some of its recommendations. The Middleton/Bromwell legislation, which takes effect on July 1, prevents insurers from forcing patients who are already being effectively treated on a medication to undergo the step therapy process, and also prohibits insurers from forcing patients to try medicine the FDA has not approved for treatment of a specific condition. Maryland is the first state in the country to enact the latter provision. Evidence suggests that step therapy may increase overall health care costs. Patients forced to manage multiple insurer “steps” often endure additional trips to the doctor or pharmacy, with additional time off from work or child care. When patient treatment is unnecessarily delayed, manageable conditions can devolve into more difficult to manage diseases. From May 5 MedChi News
I encourage my patients, their family and all those for who this applies to actively pursue and receive the most effective treatment and medication that works for them. And then let your insurance company know that you are an informed patient who will advocate for your legal right to individualized treatment.
Hope this is useful to you.