UnitedHealth Will Redirect Drug Rebates to Consumers

UnitedHealth, one of the largest insurers in the U.S., announced that all of its new employer-sponsored insurance plans in 2020 will pass the drug discounts typically given to pharmacy benefits managers (PBMs) to patients. The company said that this move will affect more than 9 million consumers at the pharmacy counter.

In a press release, UnitedHealthcare President Dan Schumacher said that the new policy builds on existing discount programs, as “one element in our aggressive drive to help deliver better health, lower costs, and a better experience.” He cited UnitedHealth data showing that the insurer’s rebate program has lowered out-of-pocket costs for consumers by an average of $130 per prescription.

The insurer also noted that existing members could opt in to this plan during contract renewals.

The move comes as the Trump administration has proposed eliminating the PBM drug rebate system for Medicare plans, though it has not commented on extending the ban to commercial plans.

Other insurers, like CVS Health’s Caremark unit and Cigna’s Express Scripts unit, have sold plans that offer point-of-sale discounts to consumers in 2019. However, the companies report slow uptake of these plans.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, March 12, 2019.