From what I heard today, the problem is as follows:
- 1) patient goes to pharmacy to get prescription filled
- 2) pharmacy contacts authorizer to find out what the cost of the prescription is under patient's plan
- 3) patient buys drugs for price returned by authorizer
- 4) authorizer sends bill on to insurance company
Step 2 is an immediate response, step 4 is handled in batch processing nightly. So far so good. Except that the Affordable Care Act makes it *illegal* to make a patient pay more than the annual limit. The authorizer and/or the pharmacy can be charged for forcing the patient to pay above the annual limit. This means that the authorizer must be aware of limit of each patient and be able to respond in real-time so that neither they nor the pharmacy will be sued. The insurance company doesn't have that information available real-time, nor do they make it available to the authorizer.
It is a computer issue, but as simple as everyone thinks. Putting individual insurance files on-line so that the out of pocket expenses can be tracked real-time isn't trivial. Now, maybe the Insurance companies were hoping the law wouldn't be implemented so they didn't do the hard work necessary to get set up, or maybe the rules were only written as to how to handle the annual limit must be handled.
Just remember, the last time companies put together a real-time on-line credit/debit system, the government decided that they charged too much to support the infrastructure, and started regulating it. That was the Durbin amendment to Dodd-Frank, which put a fixed limit on per swipe fees - regardless of what the infrastructure and support costs actually are.