Make generic-switching bonuses illegal?

Should insurers be allowed to reward docs who switch patients to generics? That debate is going public in Colorado, where legislators have proposed a bill that would prohibit the practice. On the "pro" side: Sen. Paula Sandoval, who sponsored the bill; she says docs should be thinking about patients, not money. Also on the pro side: Pfizer.

The AARP, Kaiser Permanente, and the Colorado Association of Health Plans are on the "con" side in this debate. Interestingly, Kaiser's opposition doesn't stem from support of the payments. The insurer is decrying a lack of reciprocal bans on Pfizer and other drugmakers, which leaves pharma free to incentivize docs--with gifts, lunches, and so on--to buy more expensive meds.

You'll recall that last year, a Blue Cross HMO offered to pay $100 each time a doctor switched a patient off an expensive brand-name cholesterol med--such as Pfizer's Lipitor--to a cheaper generic. The 90-day program saved Blue Care Network $5 million, a company spokeswoman said. But the plan drew sharp criticism; some charged it put money before patients' interests.

- read the Associated Press story
- check out the Denver Post article

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