Significance of Prior Authorization for Prescription Drugs

by | Published on Jul 27, 2022 | Podcasts, Insurance Verification/ Authorizations (P) | 0 comments

Share this:

Outsource Strategies International (OSI) is experienced in providing pharmacy prior authorization services for all pharmaceutical prescriptions and requests. Our team understands that any delay in prior authorization can also delay patients’ access to treatments and medicine.

In today’s podcast,Loralee Kapp, one of our Solutions Managers, discusses the importance of prior authorization for prescription drugs.

Podcast Highlights

 00:09 What is Prior Authorization?

01:19Types of Medications that Require Prior Authorization

02:18Significance of Prior Authorization for Prescription Medications

04:11 Prior Authorization – Is there a Downside?

05:41 Role of the Insurance Authorization Services

Read Transcript

Hey, this is Loralee Kapp, the Solutions Manager with Managed Outsourced Solutions. Let us talk about the importance of prior authorization for prescription drugs.

00:09 What is Prior Authorization?

A prior authorization is also referred to as preauthorization, preapproval or precertification. This is a strategy that health insurance companies use to ensure that patients receive treatments and medications that are medically necessary. This is done to ensure that the medications or services are appropriate, safe and affordable.

The American Medical Association defines prior authorizations as, “the process by which physicians and other healthcare providers must obtain advance approval from a health insurance plan before a specific procedure, service, device, supply or medication is delivered to the patient in order to qualify for coverage.”

When it comes to prescription drugs, the goal of a prior authorization is to ensure that patients get access to effective, safe and affordable prescription drugs. Companies offering medical billing services work closely with physicians to ensure a smoother process when obtaining prior authorization requests. If a patient is prescribed a drug that requires prior approval for medical necessity and such approval is not obtained, they may be required to pay the full cost.

01:19Types of Medications that Require Prior Authorization

Prior authorizations are usually required for more expensive medications for which a less expensive alternative is available.  Prescription medications that may needa prior authorization request include:

  • Ones that are used to treat only specific health conditions or people of a certain age group
  • Are costly (such as those used to treat psoriasis or rheumatoid arthritis)
  • For medications that may pose health risks when combined with other medications
  • Have a higher risk for misuse or abuse
  • May have less expensive alternatives such as a generic medication available as a less expensive alternative to the brand name
  • Often used for cosmetic reasons
  • Are used at higher doses than normal like opioids
  • Are deemed medically necessary by the physician but not covered by the patient’s plan
  • Medications used to treat non-life-threatening conditions

02:18Significance of Prior Authorization for Prescription Medications

Let us talk about the significance of prior authorization for prescription medications

Generally, most health insurance plans cover medications that physicians prescribe for patients. However, in some cases, health plans may require additional information from the physician before a prescribed drug is approved. The advantages of prior authorization for prescriptions may include:

  • Helping to improve the quality of care and support evidence-based care by ensuring that the drug the physician is requesting is medically necessary and beneficial to the patient.
  • It reduces unnecessary procedures and health care costs, for example, health plans require authorizations for painkillers that are vulnerable to misuse and to ensure that they are being used appropriately.
  • Prevents duplication of services, especially when the patient is being treated by multiple specialists.
  • Promotescost control and reduces chances of overprescribing.
  • Promotes patient safety, and
  • Lower healthcare costs.

Prior authorization requirements also support the goals of a value-based care, according to a Health Payer Intelligence article. A 2020 America Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) survey reported that to create the list of drugs and procedures that require prior authorizations, most plans:

  • Discussed the list with specialists
  • Relied on providers’ clinical guidelines
  • Made use of vendor-provided guidelines that included provider perspectives
  • Used input from contracted providers, and
  • Considered perspectives from the medical society and medical professional association members

The AHIP survey respondents said that the prior authorization programs achieved what they were designed to do. Over 90 percent of the plans reported a positive impact on the quality of care and affordability, while 84 percent said that they also saw a positive impact on the safety.

04:11 Prior Authorization – Is there a Downside?

When a specific medication requires prior authorization from the insurance company, it can prove burdensome to providers and patients. For patients, it would mean that they would have to wait a certain period of time before their prescription is filled and also that they would have to pay for it if the insurance company denies the request for coverage. For physicians, prior authorization can be a barrier to delivering timely, patient-centered care.

According to a 2021 report from The Journalist’s Resource, insurers have extended use of prior authorization requirements in response to the rising costs of medicines. The report references a February 2020 Viewpoint article in JAMA by Dr. Jack Resneck Jr., a dermatologist at the University of California, which reported that prior authorizations were needed for  about 24% of drugs in 2019 covered by the insurer-run Medicare pharmacy program (Part D plans).

The article notes that the way insurers manage the process frustrates the consumer and the medical professionals. Because of frequently changing formularies and prior authorization requirements, physicians are not sure about which treatment options will be approved without delay. Patients approaching pharmacies to pick up medications and initiate treatment are sometimes surprised when they are informed that that their physician has to initiate further action to get the healthcare plan’s approval.

05:41 The Role of the Insurance Authorization Services

Prior authorization can take days to process depending on which medication the physician prescribes and the insurance company’s requirements. Handling prior authorizations is a time-consuming and burdensome task for physicians.

It involves a lot of administrative work and time, phone calls, and paperwork by both pharmacies and physicians. According to an American Medical Association (AMA) survey, 40% of physicians employ staff whose only job is to work on prior authorizations, and they spend approximately 13 hours per week completing them. Up to 44% of physicians reported that prior authorization requests “often or always” hold up the care, with 26 % reporting lengthy wait time of three business days or more on average to receive the prior authorization decision.

06:13How an Experienced Insurance Authorization Company can Help

Partnering with an insurance authorization company can ease the process for physicians. These companies have experts on board who will work with the provider to submit prior authorization requests promptly and appropriately. Their streamlined, centralized process will minimize errors, as insurance verification specialists have experience working with all government and commercial insurers. This ensures that the prior authorization requests are submitted to meet the requirements of the different plans.

An experienced insurance authorization service provider can help practices reduce the number of denials and save time and resources required for getting prior authorizations, benefiting both physicians and patients.

Loralee Kapp

Since joining our RCM Division in October 2021, Loralee, who is HIT Certified (Health Information Technology/Health Information Management), brings her extensive expertise in medical coding and Health Information Management practices to OSI.

More from This Author

Related Posts