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UnitedHealthcare to pass drug rebates directly on to consumers

The move promotes transparency and lowers out-of-pocket costs for consumers, praised HHS Secretary Alex Azar.

Susan Morse, Senior Editor

UnitedHealthcare announced Tuesday that it is passing prescribing drug rebates directly on to consumers to help them save out-of-pocket costs.

Currently, the rebates are used to reduce the price of premiums.

Starting Jan. 1, 2019, consumers will have the discounts applied to their medication cost at the time of the point of sale at the pharmacy or through home deliveries, if the manufacturer has provided a rebate.

The new program will apply to over 7 million people enrolled in UnitedHealthcare's fully insured commercial group benefit plans. 

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar applauded the move as one moving towards the Trump Administration's goal of transparency and lower drug prices.

"Empowering patients and providers with the information and control to put them in the driver's seat is a key part of our strategy at the Department of Health and Human Services to bring down the price of drugs and make healthcare more affordable," Azar said. "We are already seeing clear momentum toward the type of innovation in the private-sector that will be an important part of the value-based transformation that is coming to America's healthcare system."

Consumers can see the final cost of their drug by going to myuhc.com or using the UHC mobile app.

"UnitedHealthcare is uniquely positioned to deliver new value and clarity to healthcare, and pharmacy benefits in particular," said Dan Schumacher, president and chief operating officer for UnitedHealthcare. "Our differentiated pharmacy model, powered by OptumRx, is delivering solutions that lead to better health outcomes and make prescription drugs more affordable."

The move from UnitedHealthcare and Optum Rx, both under the umbrella of UnitedHealth Group, follows the recently-launched PreCheck MyScript tool that enables doctors to see how much their patients would pay for prescribed medication and to see lower-cost alternatives.

Consumers use their pharmacy benefits more frequently than any other type of benefit, Schumacher said.

Self-insured customers can choose to implement similar expanded discounts for their employees, UnitedHealthcare said. OptumRx's stand-alone point of sale solution is available also to clients who do not receive their pharmacy benefits through UnitedHealthcare.

Twitter: @SusanJMorse
Email the writer: susan.morse@himssmedia.com

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