UnitedHealth Group Inc said on Tuesday that from January next year it would expa...
(Reuters) - UnitedHealth Group Inc said on Tuesday that from January next year it would expand its existing program that passes along rebates or discounts it gets from drugmakers to consumers to all new employer-sponsored plans.
Rebates are typically used to keep premiums lower, but under UnitedHealth’s plan announced last year they are distributed to individuals at the point of sale, so that consumers pay the lowest amount under their health insurance plans.
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.
The company said that through the existing program, which came into effect on Jan.1, it has already lowered prescription drug costs for consumers by an average of $130 per eligible prescription.
The insurer also said that existing members would have the choice of adopting this plan during contract renewal.
The move by UnitedHealth and its pharmacy benefits manager (PBM) unit OptumRx to pass on more savings to customers comes amid widespread government scrutiny in the United States over the industry-wide system of rebates.
Eliminating these after-market discounts is a key element of President Donald Trump’s administration plan to lower prescription medicine costs. It had in January proposed a rule to end rebates in a bid to lower prescription drug costs.
PBMs administer drug benefits for employers and health plans and also run large mail-order pharmacies.
Drugmakers say they are under pressure to provide rebates to the few PBMs that dominate the market in order to gain patient access to their products by having them included on preferred coverage lists.
Reporting by Manas Mishra and Mekhla Raina in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur