UnitedHealthcare, a UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH) company, announced a new program that will expand discounts for prescription drugs to over 7 million plan participants. It will apply to over 7 million people enrolled in UnitedHealthcare fully insured commercial group benefit plans, who fill prescriptions through retail pharmacies or home delivery.
Starting on January 1, 2019, and on plan renewal thereafter, the company will lower out-of-pocket costs by directly providing consumers with savings from pharmacy manufacturer rebates at the time of purchase. In other words, discounts will be applied to their medication cost at the point of sale. Rebates are not currently distributed to individual consumers.
“UnitedHealthcare is uniquely positioned to deliver new value and clarity to health care, and pharmacy benefits in particular,” said Dan Schumacher, president and chief operating officer, UnitedHealthcare. “Our differentiated pharmacy model, powered by OptumRx, is delivering solutions that lead to better health outcomes and make prescription drugs more affordable.”
The Trump Administration praised the new program and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement that it “is a prime example of the type of movement toward transparency and lower drug prices for millions of patients that the Trump Administration is championing.”
“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,” Mr. 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.”
Secretary Azar on Monday delivered a speech to the Federation of American Hospitals where he addressed the Trump Administration’s transformation of the healthcare system to a value-based rather than volume-based system. The White House wants pricing transparency for patients instead of a shrouded system that benefits special interests.
He said “the only option is to charge forward — for HHS to take bolder action, and for providers and payers to join with us.”
UnitedHealth Group said the move is part of a broader effort to simplify pharmacy benefits, reduce costs in a manner that directly impacts customers and improve their ovreall health care experience.
The company also recently launched PreCheck MyScript tool enables doctors to see how much their patients would have to pay for a medication if they went to their preferred pharmacy at that very moment to pick it up. The new system gives doctors the ability to provide patients lower-cost alternatives to higher-cost medications.
“People use their pharmacy benefit more frequently than any other type of benefit, which means pharmacy provides the greatest opportunity for us to understand and meet their needs,” Mr. Schumacher added. “We believe our efforts to enhance value for our customers will not only benefit our members, but the health care system as a whole.”