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August 19, 2021

Lawsuits Challenge Parts of the Payer Transparency Rule

On August 10, the prescription benefit manager trade association, PCMA, filed a lawsuit against HHS in the District of Columbia’s federal court challenging the legality of certain provisions of the payer transparency rule effective  January 1, 2022.  In its complaint, PCMA states:

PCMA is not challenging the portions of the rule that direct plans to provide useful information directly to patients. But we are challenging the portions of the rule that do not meet those important objectives and will not produce information that patients and physicians can use.

These parts of the Trump administration’s transparency rule will drive prescription drug costs higher. By requiring disclosure of “historical” net prices, which are essentially current year net prescription drug prices, the rule will directly provide drug manufacturers access to their competitors’ negotiated rebates, discounts, and price concessions. This in turn will allow drug manufacturers to discount less deeply as they realize their price concessions went beyond those of competitors.

In addition, outside entities will not be able to develop reported information into a useful and understandable format for patients. Unlike health plans and PBMs, third-party application developers will not know patients’ existing insurance enrollment and eligibility or their current benefits and whether they have met a deductible or reached an out-of-pocket limit, and so the third-party applications are likely to cause widespread confusion among patients. Net prices are generally not useful information to patients because their deductible and coinsurance payments are calculated based on negotiated rates, not net prices.

PBMs and health plans already have real-time benefits tools for patients and prescribers, which they can use at the point of prescribing to check on cost-sharing for every patient based on their individual situation and health plan.

Coincidentally, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has filed a substantially similar lawsuit in the federal court for the Eastern District of Texas. That case challenges the legality of the “historical net prices” provision and the “three ‘machine-readable’ files” provision of the HHS rule on the ground that they have no utility to consumers.