Building on the introduction of the first-of-its-kind point-of-sale discount program, OptumRx and UnitedHealthcare are expanding their innovative consumer point-of-sale prescription drug discount programs to apply to all new employer-sponsored plans, making medications more affordable and improving health outcomes.
Starting in 2020, new employer-sponsored health insurance coverage that used UnitedHealthcare and pharmacy benefit manager OptumRx, also a division of UnitedHealth, would have to include point-of-sale pharmacy discounts. Any such discounts would instead have to be credited at the pharmacy counter when patients fill a prescription. Insurers and PBMs often pass these rebates to their employer clients, who may use them to reduce premiums for workers, help cover their costs of offering an employer-sponsored plan or pass them on at the point of sale. That's generally small employers.
UnitedHealthcare said Tuesday that its initial direct-rebate program, begun previous year, has lowered drug costs by an average of $130 per prescription.More news: Raiders who beat North Korea embassy staff have links to Central Intelligence Agency
UnitedHealth's move builds on the existing discount programs that were announced a year ago, which the company said will serve more than 9 million consumers this year.
Drug rebates have become a growing point of contention as the cost of medical care and prescription drugs rises.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar has pushed to turn them more into upfront discounts the customer gets when paying for the drug.More news: Maurizio Sarri fears Chelsea injuries due to poor Dynamo Kiev pitch
As consumer anger over drug prices has grown, pharmaceutical companies and insurers have increasingly pointed fingers at each other, with drug companies accusing insurers of profiting from their share of the rebates they collect, while insurers say the manufacturers are the ones who decide what a drug costs.
Leerink analyst Ana Gupte said in a research note that she expects other health plans to follow UnitedHealth's lead in requiring more rebates to be offered directly to the patient.
UnitedHealthcare is the insurance arm of UnitedHealth Group Inc., which is based in Minnetonka, Minnesota.More news: Man uses mobile phone as shield in alleged bow and arrow attack