UnitedHealth Group has announced that the pharmacy discounts it obtains from drug maker rebates will be passed along to full-insured customers when their prescriptions are being filled via home delivery or at a pharmacy outlet. According to UnitedHealth Group this will become effective next year on January 1 and those who will benefit are the fully insured specifically those enrolled on the commercial group benefit policies.
Currently the largest health insurer in the United States counts around seven million people who are enrolled in such plans. For self-insured employers it will be optional. Prior to placing a home delivery order or going to a pharmacy outlet plan participants can use the mobile app of UHC or log onto its website to find out their drug’s discounted cost.
Health insurance premiums
The announcement by UnitedHealth comes in the wake of calls on health insurance firms and drug benefit managers to pass along the rebates that they are given by manufacturers of pharmaceutical products to members of health plans. In the past health insurance firms have argued that they retain these rebates in order to keep the premiums their customers pay affordable. However manufacturers of pharmaceutical products have questioned the validity of that defense.
According to UnitedHealth not all pharmaceutical products have a rebate and thus the discounts will only be given for some prescriptions and not all. The giant health insurer however says the move consists of an effort by UnitedHealth Group to improve the healthcare experience of its customers by simplifying pharmacy benefits. In UnitedHealth’s view this will also the wider healthcare ecosystem.
“People use their pharmacy benefit more frequently than any other type of benefit … We believe our efforts to enhance value for our customers will not only benefit our members, but the health care system as a whole,” said Dan Schumacher, the chief operating officer and president of UnitedHealthcare.
The health insurer employs a differentiated pharmacy model which is powered by OptumRx, a pharmacy benefits manager that UnitedHealth owns. UnitedHealth is however not the first to offer rebates to clients. Last year PBM Express Scripts unveiled SmartShare Rx program that targets customers who provide health plans that are high deductible. CVS Health also provides point-of-sale rebates via Caremark PBM.
In the United States there is an increasing number of employers who are offering high deductible plans as a cost-shifting measure. Currently 25 million workers in the world’s largest economy are on high deductible plans per a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation analysis conducted last fall.