A New State Tool to Manage Drug Costs: Experts Share Insights into Outcome-Based Contracts for Medicaid Pharmacy Claims

Colorado and Michigan have joined Oklahoma to become the nation’s pioneering states with approved State Plan Amendments (SPAs) that enable Medicaid alternative payment models (APMs) for prescription drugs in the form of outcome-based contracts with pharmaceutical manufacturers.

In early May, state experts from Oklahoma, Colorado, and Michigan shared their experiences implementing their APMs during a NASHP webinar. A recording of the webinar is available here.

Experts from Oklahoma, Colorado, and Michigan shared their experiences implementing their outcome-based Medicaid alternative payment models during a recent NASHP webinar. Listen to the webinar here.

The SPAs enable states to negotiate contracts based on agreed-upon outcome measures tailored for specific drugs.  Outcomes measures vary but may include measures such as patient adherence or reduced hospitalizations. If the drug’s performance fails to meet agreed-upon outcomes and triggers the need for additional manufacturer payments to the state, those payments are made in the form of supplemental rebates. The contract template was developed with the support of the State Medicaid Alternative Reimbursement and Purchasing Test for High-cost Drugs (SMART-D).

Though these outcomes-based APMs are valuable tools for states to manage escalating drug costs, APMs are best understood as “one more tool in our toolbox,” which are most effective when used in tandem with other strategies rather than in isolation, explained Cathy Traugott, pharmacy office director of the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing. Though these APMs may help states manage payment for high-cost drugs, the high-list prices themselves remain a problem that states are also attempting to address head on. During this year’s state legislative session alone, 47 states have filed 254 drug-cost-related bills (as of May 22, 2019).

Executing and implementing outcome-based contracting can be a time-consuming endeavor for states because of the necessity for state officials to engage with multiple manufacturers in exploratory discussions to identify drug candidates, followed by the data analysis necessary to design, and then track the outcome-based measures.

Oklahoma, whose work NASHP supported through a subgrant from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, found that the process took longer than anticipated. Terry Cothran, director of the University of Oklahoma’s College of Pharmacy, advised states that pursue outcomes-based contracting to consider dedicating a project coordinator to execute the work most effectively.

To date, these contracts are with state Medicaid agencies only, and have not included inter-agency efforts. Rita Subhedar, state assistant administrator for Michigan’s Department of Health and Human Services, stressed the importance of broad engagement within a Medicaid department to effectively implement these APMs, including pharmacy, medical, and behavioral health staff. A separate, subscription-based payment approach, known as the “Netflix” model, utilizes a cross-agency approach engaging both Medicaid and a state corrections department. This approach was explored in another NASHP webinar, How States Pay for Hep C Drugs Using a “Netflix-style” Subscription Model.

The first results from outcome-based contracting will come from Oklahoma, whose first, one-year contract is scheduled to end July 2019, with three other contracts concluding soon after. Colorado and Michigan have not yet executed contracts.