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Pharmacy costs lead Missoula County to propose 3% increase to benefits plan

Citing an increase in pharmacy claims, Missoula County has proposed a 3% increase to its employee benefits medical plan for Fiscal Year 2022 to cover risings costs.

It will also be looking for long-term strategies to keep premiums as flat as possible under a shifting healthcare landscape.

Erika Grinde, the county’s risk manager, said benefit opportunities will likely expand under the new plan. The proposed 3% cost increase will be the first since FY20.

“The driver of this is almost entirely related to pharmacy claims,” said Grinde. “The big driver of pharmacy going up is specialty medications. Those drugs are typically running us between $5,000 and $8,000 a month per prescription.”

Grinde said the increase impacts the county’s larger benefits plan, which is now looking at pharmacy costs reaching $2.5 million by the end of this fiscal year.

In comparison, Grinde said, the plan spent just $1.9 million on pharmacy last fiscal year.

“That’s a significant increase,” she said. “We’re trying to figure out what we can do to contain it without changing the benefit in terms of shifting that cost back to members. That obviously doesn’t help our members.”

Grinde said dental and vision hasn’t changed. County employees covered by the plan should see the new rate proposal this week.

“We don’t always want to cover those costs with premium increases,” Grinde said. “There’s got to be other strategies hopefully to contain costs through contracting with our pharmacy benefit manger.”