One study of schizophrenia drugs used in Georgia’s Medicaid program showed that, while step therapy saved the state close to $20 a month on drugs for every patient, the savings were more than offset by increased costs in other services. Indeed, the program saw a monthly increase of nearly $32 per patient in outpatient care.
Similar studies have shown that private plans utilizing step therapy saw hospital and emergency-room visits increase, resulting in higher overall costs.
What’s troubling is that step therapy is becoming more widely adopted. In 2000, 20 percent of private insurance carriers used step therapy. By 2008, it was half.
Reformers need to recognize that policies giving health care administrators control over treatment regimes are hazardous to patient health, and actually inflate overall costs.
The deterioration of the doctor-patient relationship is a serious threat to our health system. Ending step-therapy programs is one way to fortify this relationship.