Objectives: First, to examine 7 large Medicare Advantage (MA) plans’ use of step therapy. Second, to compare step therapy that health plans imposed in their MA and commercial (employer) drug coverage policies.
Study Design: Database analysis.
Methods: Using data from the Tufts Medical Center Specialty Drug Evidence and Coverage Database, we evaluated 7 large MA plans’ use of step therapy in their Part B drug coverage policies. First, we determined the frequency with which different MA plans applied step therapy. Second, we determined the frequency with which plans imposed step therapy protocols across International Classification of Diseases, Tenth Revision, Clinical Modification categories. Third, we compared each step therapy protocol against each drug’s corresponding FDA label indication. Fourth, we examined the consistency of step therapy protocols between the same insurer’s MA and commercial lines of business.
Results: The frequency with which the included MA plans imposed step therapy ranged from 26.1% to 63.7%. Step therapy was most common for dermatology conditions (90.2%) and least common for oncology conditions (28.6%). On average, MA plans’ step therapy requirements were consistent with the drug’s FDA label indication 29.0% of the time. MA plans’ and commercial plans’ use of step therapy differed for the same drug-indication pairs 46.1% of the time.
Conclusions: MA plans vary in the frequency with which they impose step therapy protocols in their Part B drug coverage policies. Moreover, insurers often impose different step therapy protocols in their MA plan and commercial plan offerings. Differences in plans’ step therapy requirements may result in variability in patients’ access to care within MA.