UnitedHealthcare to Pass Drug Rebates on to Some Customers

UnitedHealthcare campus Minneapolis Photo: AP/Jim Mone, File
UnitedHealthcare campus Minneapolis

March 06, 2018 11:50 AM

The nation's biggest health insurer will pass drugmaker rebates along to some customers starting next year, 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.


RELATED: Feds say UnitedHealth Wrote False Claims, Defrauded Medicare

Drugmakers 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.

The Pharmacy Benefit Management Institute says insurers and employers most often use the money to reduce overall plan costs.

RELATED: Top Paid CEO in Minnesota is in Health Care Industry

The rebates that UnitedHealthcare plans to pass along could lower customer expenses like deductibles or co-insurance payments. Those costs in general have climbed steadily in recent years as employers shift more of the coverage expense to people who use the prescriptions.

UnitedHealthcare's announcement marks a "major win" for patients, according to Adam Fein, who follows the industry as CEO of Drug Channels Institute. He noted that most rebates come from patients using brand-name drugs to treat chronic conditions, but that money frequently goes toward lowering costs for everyone, including healthier customers.

"A small number of people are generating most of the rebate dollars, and they are not seeing the direct benefit," he said.

Separately, President Donald Trump also has proposed giving rebates directly to Medicare prescription drug customers.

UnitedHealthcare's rebate plan will apply to about 7 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.

UnitedHealthcare is the insurance arm of Minnetonka, Minnesota-based UnitedHealth Group Inc.


The Associated Press

(Copyright 2018 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


Chisago County Attorney Rules Use of Deadly Force by Officers in July was Justified

Heaviest Snow May Miss Twin Cities

Flashback Friday: McHale, Lingenfelter Led Field of Big Men at 1976 State Tournament

KSTP Sports' Boys State Hoops Central

Sheriff: Missing Paynesville Couple Found Dead, Grandson Arrested

Police Storm French Market, Kill Hostage-Taker