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Drug pricing tool aids consumerism

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When employers adopt consumer-driven health care plans and shift costs to employees, providing medical and prescription drug cost information becomes even more important.

At Crawford & Co., employees can price prescription drugs through a company website.

The Price a Medication tool is simple, said Bonnie C. Sawdey, Crawford's vice president of human resources in Atlanta. Employees enter the brand-name of their medications, then the tool asks for dosage and frequency. The tool will show the cost for the brand name medication for a 30-day supply at a retail pharmacy, as well as the cost for a 90-day supply using Crawford's mail-order service. If lower-cost alternatives are available, the tool show them.

Take Maxalt, which is used to treat migraines. An employee can see that the cost of a 90-day supply through home delivery for Maxalt 10 mg tablets is $405.35, while a 90-day supply of rizatriptan, Maxalt's generic equivalent, will cost just $31.47. For a 30-day supply at retail, Maxalt will cost $171.16, and the generic will cost only $12.85.

“The cost difference is more than significant. This is yet another resource that is very helpful” for employees enrolled in consumer-driven health care plans, Ms. Sawdey said.

On the same website, Crawford employees can link to an Aetna Inc. site to find prices for common medical procedures and tests. “Given that the same procedure, such as an MRI, can vary in cost by service provider, it is important that employees have these types of tools to help them make the best possible purchasing decisions,” she said.