NU Online News Service, Oct. 23, 3:35 p.m. – Two large unaffiliated Blue Cross and Blue Shield organizations say they will administer several pharmacy-benefit management functions jointly to better control costs of prescription drugs.

Beginning Jan. 1, 2003, the Regence Group, Salt Lake City, will partner with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Blue Care Network of Michigan, both in Detroit.

Regence affiliate plans, in addition to the Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Utah, are Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon, Regence Blue Shield in Washington State and Regence BlueShield of Idaho.

Other Blues companies manage some prescription-drug functions together in a vendor-customer relationship, but this arrangement focuses instead on collaborative efforts, the companies say in a joint announcement. Prescription drugs are high on the list of causes of rapidly increasing health-care costs throughout the country, the companies note.

The agreement includes volume contracting with pharmaceutical manufacturers for rebates and rebate collection, clinical reviews of lists of covered drugs and reporting functions.

The partnership will not affect individual member health benefits and does not have any impact on jobs at the companies, the announcement states. Furthermore, both organizations says they will continue to use outside arrangements for other pharmacy-benefit functions such as mail-order drugs and claims processing.

These joint benefit-management activities will cover all three million Regence members and all members of Blue Care Network of Michigan, the HMO affiliate of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. It will also encompass selected member segments in the traditional, PPO and point-of-service business of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, for a total Michigan number of 800,000 persons.