Consumer Price Index for Urban Consumers rises 2.3 percent from Sept. 2017- Sept. 2018

(Washington, DC – Insurance News 360) – The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics announced on October 15 that the consumer price index for all urban consumers (CPI-U) rose 2.3 percent; this is not seasonally adjusted.

Food prices increased 1.4 percent, with prices for food consumed away from home increasing 2.6 percent. Food consumed at home increased in price by 0.4 percent.

Energy prices increased 4.8 percent. The index for fuel oil jumped 23.5 percent, while the gasoline index increased by 9.1 percent. Electricity and natural gas both declined 1.2 percent.

Prices for energy increased 4.8percent over the year ending September 2018. The index for fuel oil rose sharply, increasing 23.4 percent. The gasoline index rose 9.1 percent over the last 12 months, while the electricity and natural gas indexes both declined, falling 1.2 percent.

For items other than food an energy, the index increased 2.2 percent; the shelter index is up 3.3 percent over the year and medical care index is up 1.7 percent as well.

This information is from the Consumer Price Index program and these figures are not seasonally adjusted. To learn more, see “Consumer Price Index — September 2018.”

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Wolf Administration Announces Agreement with Insurers to Eliminate Barriers to Medication-Assisted Treatment

(Harrisburg, PA  - Insurance News 360) – In October, Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration came to agreement with commercial insurers in Pennsylvania to align prior-authorization processes for opioid prescriptions to protect patient health and safety while ensuring patients have unrestricted access to medication-assisted treatment (MAT) when needed to battle opioid addiction.

“It is vital we take all possible steps to make sure patients are receiving the most appropriate treatment for their pain, while at the same time appropriately managing and monitoring the risks associated with opioids,” Department of Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said. “Medication-assisted treatment is an effective, evidence-based treatment to help those with the disease of addiction to opioids and this step by private insurers allows more people with opioid use disorder to be able to access this form of treatment. Treatment works and recovery is possible for those who are battling this disease.”

The announcement, made Oct. 12, followed a summit of Pennsylvania’s largest health insurers and the Medicaid managed care program, the departments of Drug and Alcohol Programs, Health, and Human Services, and the Insurance Department. The summit was part of the administration’s ongoing effort to battle the opioid crisis.

Insurers agreeing to the guidelines include Aetna, Capital BlueCross, Geisinger, Highmark, Independence Blue Cross, UPMC, and United Healthcare.

“I want to thank Governor Wolf for his continued leadership on battling the opioid crisis in our state, and our insurers for coming to the table to find ways to cover appropriate treatment when it is needed, and for working with our medical providers to properly manage and monitor this treatment,” Insurance Commissioner Jessica Altman said.

This move closely aligns commercial insurance prior-authorization requirements for opioid prescriptions and access to MAT with requirements used by both Medicaid fee-for-service and managed care programs. The requirements were implemented earlier this year by the Department of Human Services.

These guidelines apply to individual, small group, and large group fully insured plans. Self-funded plans, where employers provide health care coverage administered by a third party, are regulated by the federal government and are not included in this agreement.

They implement thresholds for prior authorization for long- and short-acting opioids, morphine milligram equivalents (MME) and exceptions for active cancer, sickle cell crisis, and palliative care/hospice patients. Some insurers are phasing in their alignment with many of the guidelines. Patients should consult with their insurer to find out how these guidelines are being incorporated into their specific health plan.

Under this agreement, commercial insurers will cover MAT without prior authorization in the following ways:

• Coverage of at least one Buprenorphine/naloxone combination product

• Coverage of Methadone as MAT

• Coverage of injectable and oral Naltrexone

Commercial insurers have also committed to coverage of at least one form of nasal naloxone without quantity limits. The guidelines also provide that MAT will be covered at the lowest patient cost tier on the plan’s pharmacy benefit, as applicable.

Source: Pennsylvania Department of Insurance.

Wolf Administration Announces Agreement with Insurers to Eliminate Barriers to Medication-Assisted Treatment

(Harrisburg, PA  – Insurance News 360) – In October, Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration came to agreement with commercial insurers in Pennsylvania to align prior-authorization processes for opioid prescriptions to protect patient health and safety while ensuring patients have unrestricted access to medication-assisted treatment (MAT) when needed to battle opioid addiction.

“It is vital we take all possible steps to make sure patients are receiving the most appropriate treatment for their pain, while at the same time appropriately managing and monitoring the risks associated with opioids,” Department of Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said. “Medication-assisted treatment is an effective, evidence-based treatment to help those with the disease of addiction to opioids and this step by private insurers allows more people with opioid use disorder to be able to access this form of treatment. Treatment works and recovery is possible for those who are battling this disease.”

The announcement, made Oct. 12, followed a summit of Pennsylvania’s largest health insurers and the Medicaid managed care program, the departments of Drug and Alcohol Programs, Health, and Human Services, and the Insurance Department. The summit was part of the administration’s ongoing effort to battle the opioid crisis.

Insurers agreeing to the guidelines include Aetna, Capital BlueCross, Geisinger, Highmark, Independence Blue Cross, UPMC, and United Healthcare.

“I want to thank Governor Wolf for his continued leadership on battling the opioid crisis in our state, and our insurers for coming to the table to find ways to cover appropriate treatment when it is needed, and for working with our medical providers to properly manage and monitor this treatment,” Insurance Commissioner Jessica Altman said.

This move closely aligns commercial insurance prior-authorization requirements for opioid prescriptions and access to MAT with requirements used by both Medicaid fee-for-service and managed care programs. The requirements were implemented earlier this year by the Department of Human Services.

These guidelines apply to individual, small group, and large group fully insured plans. Self-funded plans, where employers provide health care coverage administered by a third party, are regulated by the federal government and are not included in this agreement.

They implement thresholds for prior authorization for long- and short-acting opioids, morphine milligram equivalents (MME) and exceptions for active cancer, sickle cell crisis, and palliative care/hospice patients. Some insurers are phasing in their alignment with many of the guidelines. Patients should consult with their insurer to find out how these guidelines are being incorporated into their specific health plan.

Under this agreement, commercial insurers will cover MAT without prior authorization in the following ways:

• Coverage of at least one Buprenorphine/naloxone combination product

• Coverage of Methadone as MAT

• Coverage of injectable and oral Naltrexone

Commercial insurers have also committed to coverage of at least one form of nasal naloxone without quantity limits. The guidelines also provide that MAT will be covered at the lowest patient cost tier on the plan’s pharmacy benefit, as applicable.

Source: Pennsylvania Department of Insurance.

Employment up 560,000 in professional and business services over the year ended September 2018

(Washington, DC – Insurance News 360) – The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that several sectors have seen employment increases over the fiscal year ending September 2018.

The mining and logging industries have seen the biggest gains of all between October 2017 and September 2018. Employment in this sector rose by 61,000, or 8.8 percent.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in health care and social assistance increased 406,000 in the fiscal year ended September 2018. This is a 2.1percent increase in employment. Within health care and social assistance, employment in health care increased 301,500 over the past 12 months.

In other areas, construction added 315,000 jobs, for a 4.5 percent increase; manufacturing added 278,000 jobs, with 4/5 of those in durable goods manufacturing. That’s an increase of 2.2 percent over the previous year.  Transportation and warehousing employment increased by 174,000, or 3.3 percent.

Mining and logging employment rose by 61,000, with all of the gain in mining. Employment in mining and logging increased 8.8 percent over the September 2017–September 2018 period, which was the largest percentage change among the major industries.

This data is from the Current Employment Statistics program and are seasonally adjusted. Data for the most recent month are preliminary. See “The Employment Situation — September 2018” to learn more.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.