Prior authorization an increasing burden


The use of prior authorization for prescriptions and medical services has continued to increase in recent years, despite the consequences to continuity of care, according to a survey by the American Medical Association.

Survey: How has the number of PAs changed in the last 5 years?

Half of the 1,000 practicing physicians who responded said that prior authorization (PA) for prescriptions have increased significantly over the last 5 years, and 41% said that PA for medical services has done the same. The corresponding numbers for 5-year decreases in PAs were 2% and 1%, the AMA reported March 12.

Results of the survey, conducted in December 2018, also show that 85% of physicians believe that prior authorization sometimes, often, or always has a negative effect on the continuity of patients’ care. Almost 70% of respondents said that it is somewhat or extremely difficult to determine when PA is required for a prescription or medical service, and only 8% reported contracting with a health plan that offers programs to exempt physicians from the PA process, the AMA said.

“Physicians follow insurance protocols for prior authorization that require faxing recurring paperwork, multiple phone calls, and hours spent on hold. At the same time, patients’ lives can hang in the balance until health plans decide if needed care will qualify for insurance coverage,” AMA President Barbara L. McAneny, MD, said in a statement.

In January 2018, two organizations representing insurers – America’s Health Insurance Plans and the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association – signed onto a joint consensus statement with the AMA and other health care groups that provided five areas for improvement of the PA process. The current survey results show that “most health plans are not making meaningful progress on reforming the cumbersome prior authorization process,” the AMA said.

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