ACR: Safe Step Act would limit 'inappropriate' step therapy use
A bipartisan bill introduced in the U.S. Senate this week would establish guidelines to prevent the inappropriate use of step therapy in employer-sponsored health plans, and create a process for patients and their physicians to seek exceptions, according to a statement from the American College of Rheumatology.
The bill, called the Safe Step Act (S. 2546), was introduced on Sept. 25, 2019, by Sens. Bill Cassidy, R-La., Doug Jones, D-Ala., and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska.
“With the Senate introduction of the Safe Step Act, we are one step closer to removing a treatment barrier that hurts patients,” Angus Worthing, MD, FACR, FACP, chair of the ACR Government Affairs Committee, said in a press release. “We applaud congressional leaders for recognizing that forcing patients to ‘fail first’ through harmful step therapy practices puts them at unnecessary risk, prolongs pain and discomfort, worsens patient outcomes and undermines the clinical judgment of medical professionals across the country.”
He added, “We urge Congress to quickly pass the Safe Step Act so that patients can appropriately seek exceptions to ‘fail first’ policies and quickly start accessing the treatments they need.”
The bill, which has eight cosponsors, has been referred to the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. Its companion bill in the House of Representatives — H.R. 2279 — was introduced in April by Rep. Raul Ruiz, D-Calif., who is a physician, and is cosponsored by Rep. Brad Wenstrup, R-Ohio, a podiatrist.
According to the ACR, both pieces of legislation build on reforms passed in 25 states to address step therapy, which, according to the organization, delays effective care and puts patients at unnecessary risk.
A 2019 patient survey conducted by the ACR found that 46.49% of patients receiving treatment for a rheumatic disease have experienced step therapy. Another survey administered by the ACR in 2016 revealed that most respondents reported negative health effects related by treatment delays caused by step therapy.
“While state efforts to limit insurers’ use of step therapy are an important development, Congressional action is needed to address the use of step therapy in employer-provided plans, which are regulated by federal law,” read the press release. “If enacted, the legislation will go a long way towards removing the treatment barriers created by step therapy.” – by Jason Laday