UnitedHealthcare to Pass Drug Rebates on to Some Customers

The nation's largest health insurer plans to give some customers a break at the pharmacy counter starting next year.

UnitedHelathcare said Tuesday that it will pass along rebates from drug manufacturers to customers when they fill a prescription. Those rebates could amount to a few bucks or several hundred dollars, depending on the drug.

Drugmakers frequently give rebates for prescription drugs, but those discounts rarely flow directly to people filling the 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.

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

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.

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