Nation’s Biggest Health Insurer to Pass Drug Rebates to Customers
The nation’s biggest health insurer will pass drug maker rebates along to some customers starting in 2019, giving a potential break to those taking expensive prescriptions.
UnitedHealthcare said Tuesday it will let people covered by certain employer-sponsored health plans collect rebates when they fill prescriptions or at the point of sale. Those rebates could amount to a few bucks or several hundred dollars, depending on the drug.
Drug makers frequently give rebates for prescription drugs, but those discounts rarely flow directly to the people filling prescriptions. How these rebates are used has become a growing source of debate in recent years as the cost of some treatments has soared.
One pharmacy benefit management study says insurers and employers most often use the money to reduce overall plan costs. These proposed rebate plans could lower customer expenses such as deductibles or co-insurance payments. In general, these costs have climbed steadily in recent years as employers shifted more of the coverage expense to people who use prescriptions.
This announcement marks a “big win” for patients, according to CEO of Drug Channels Institute. The rebate plan will apply to about seven million people who have fully insured coverage through an employer. That’s a relatively small slice of business for an insurer that covers more than 49 million people. The plan does not apply to the insurer’s individual coverage or to insurance offered through most large employers.
In addition, the administration has proposed giving rebates directly to Medicare prescription drug customers. The administration wants as much transparency and lower drug prices for millions of patients.
Industry experts remind us that these point-of-sale rebates offer limited help in reducing the overall drug prices that make everyone’s cost of coverage rise.