Quebec move to boost pharmacy transparency could save plan sponsors money

Amendments to Quebec’s Bill 92 could reduce how much private insurers spend on dispensing fees by requiring pharmacists to detail which service corresponds to which fee on their receipts.

“The situation in Quebec is different from the situation in the rest of the country,” says Jean-Guy Gauthier, vice-president of health and benefits at Aon Hewitt in Montreal. “. . . When you go to the pharmacy, all you see on the receipt you get is the total amount of the cost and how much you pay yourself, as a participant.”

Read: A look at the tools to address drug plan pressures

Under the amended bill, instead of simply seeing a total cost of $45, members would know the drug itself is $25, the margin is $10 and the dispensing fee is $10, Gauthier says as an example. If the plan, however, had an $8 cap on the dispensing fee, members would know they’re paying the difference themselves and could look around for a cheaper pharmacy.

“Without that information, it is really hard in Quebec to implement any of the regular cost-containment features that exist in the rest of Canada,” says Gauthier.

In welcoming the legislative proposals from Quebec Health Minister Gaétan Barrette, the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association’s Quebec branch noted the higher prices often paid by private drug plans in comparison to the public system. “On behalf of Quebec employees who have private drug insurance — which represents 60 per cent of the province’s population — and their employers, life and health insurers commend minister Barrette’s proposal to require more transparency from pharmacists, as is already done elsewhere in the country. We, therefore, strongly recommend parliamentarians approve these amendments,” said Lyne Duhaime, president of the CLHIA’s Quebec branch.

Editor’s note: Comments from the CLHIA added Nov. 11 at 2 p.m.

Read: Why drug plan sponsors need more complete information