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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Fail First Policy: Under Fire

Access to new and better medication should be provided to everyone especially those who are poor and disabled.

However, some insurance companies employ discriminatory practices as alleged by several organizations like the Healthy African American Families, Familia Unida, and For Grace in their sent California General Jerry Brown. They asked for the investigation of said practices specifically the denial of access to critical medications of poor and disabled African-American and Latino families.

The concerned organizations specifically mentioned Blue Shield which refused to initially cover doctor-prescribed and FDA-approved treatments. Some insurers also had been requiring patients to fail on up to five medicines before they can access to the one prescribed by their doctor.

The members of the minority and low income earners were often the victims of these practices specifically those suffering from chronic pain like multiple sclerosis, arthritis, fibromyalgia and diabetic peripheral neuropathy. Consequently, they experienced prolonged suffering and failing health.

As response to this letter, sixteen state Attorneys General relayed this concern to the Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). In turn, CMS tightened its restrictions and adopted a policy that prohibited health insurers from obliging patients to take more than two medicines before they will cover the medicine as prescribed by doctors.

This fail first policy by health insurers is risky. It operates to prolong and not to improve patients’ conditions. An ailing person should receive immediate medical attention and take prescribed medications. However, some patients are forced to submit to inappropriate treatment or take multiple medicines that do not work just to comply with requirements of these health insurers.

Consequently, by the time the patient is given the right treatment or medication, his condition have gone from bad to worse.

It is a good thing that authorities had already initiated a move to rectify what it seems to be a bad policy. The national government should also address this problem to prevent similar abuses in the future.