the elephant in the room.

  • jobs & the economy
  • May 25, 2017

Prescription drug manufacturers face the same challenges of offering employees comprehensive and affordable healthcare benefits that all U.S. businesses do. Being part of the healthcare industry doesn’t make answering a job candidate’s questions about access to healthcare, prescription drugs, dental care, etc. any easier for you. However, there is one pitch you can offer to candidates that most other companies who are also recruiting them cannot: the opportunity to be part of the nationwide effort to lower healthcare costs.  

rising drug costs

There’s no question prescription drug costs impose financial and emotional burdens on a majority of U.S. employers and their employees. The Society for Human Resource Management reports the costs of prescription drugs in group health plans continue to increase at double-digit rates, forcing employers to adopt strategies to ensure that costly medications are used only when needed and to consider other cost containment measures that place more of the financial burden on employees.

HR consultancy Segal recently released its 2017 Health Plan Cost Trend Survey. The findings show that prescription drug costs are projected to rise 11.6 percent for active employees, up from 11.3 percent in 2016.

drug companies to the rescue?

At first, the idea that drug companies can lead the effort to reduce drug prices may sound improbable. After all, the entire industry often shoulders the lion’s share of the blame for the fact prices keep going up.  

The Small Business Majority, a national small business advocacy organization, reports that the rising cost of prescription drugs are a major concern for small business owners. Many owners  feel that drug costs directly impact their bottom lines, and more blame drug companies (72 percent) than health insurance companies (20 percent).  

The industry’s image wasn’t helped after suffering a couple black eyes over the past year. Martin Shkreli, the infamous then-CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, sneered and smirked his way through a Congressional hearing into his justification for raising the price of a lifesaving anti-infection medication, Daraprim, from  $13.50 to $750. Last September, it was Mylan CEO Heather Bresch’s turn to appear before Congress to testify about her company’s controversial price increase for the EpiPen.  

The competition for a wide range of positions, ranging from chemist, clinical research associate, clinical study leader and lab tech to marketing, sales, legal and finance, is already fierce. The image of an industry comprised of companies concerned only with making money can make identifying and recruiting candidates difficult.  

How to counter any misconceptions a candidate may have walking into an interview? By positioning the work the potential employee will be doing will lead to both the development of new treatments and the broader effort to lower healthcare costs.  

HR’s role

Job candidates coming from outside the pharmaceutical industry may have misconceptions that taking a position with a drug manufacturer will include discounts on medications or other healthcare expenditures. That’s why it’s important to involve HR early in the recruiting process so you’re prepared to field applicants’ questions about how your company offsets drug and healthcare costs.  

Make sure you fully understand the healthcare benefits you offer employees. There are a number of different approaches and models your company may try to adopt.  

The United Benefit Advisors (UBA), an Indianapolis-based network of employee benefits advisory organizations, reports that on average 11.9 percent of prescription plans are self-funded, with the vast majority (88.1 percent) of employers choosing to fully insure their prescription plans.  

Besides funding options, UBA found that employers are using other cost containment strategies — such as blended copay/coinsurance models and penalties for brand name drugs — to keep drug prices manageable for employees. Other strategies include requiring the insurance company to authorize a prescription before it can be filled, step therapy that requires patients to try using lower-cost drugs before higher-cost alternatives, tiered co-payment structures that increase employee cost-sharing for high-priced specialty medications and negotiating aggressive specialty drug contracting terms with pharmaceutical companies and pharmacy benefit managers.  

The cost of healthcare and prescription drugs will likely be top of mind for all of your job candidates. Work closely with your HR colleagues, including inviting them to participate in the interview process, to ensure a potential new hire walks out of all meetings and interviews with a complete understanding of the benefits you offer, and the feeling that you are trying to ease what can be a difficult financial situation. Just as importantly, position the work that candidate will perform as being part of the nationwide effort to reduce healthcare costs and grant access to medical care for more Americans. Even drug manufacturers wrestle with the high costs of healthcare, but they can also play a leading role in bringing those costs down.  

Learn more about how Randstad can assist in all of your life sciences staffing and business needs. Contact us today!