One of the nation’s largest health insurers said Tuesday it will begin passing on the savings it gets from discounted prescription drugs straight to the consumers that buy them.
UnitedHealthcare said it would pass on rebates it gets from drug companies directly to consumers beginning next year.
The move comes as drug companies, insurers and other key players point fingers about who is responsible for high drug prices.
Drugmakers often give rebates for prescription drugs to insurance companies through a negotiating process, but critics argue those savings aren’t passed on to consumers.
Insurers say they spread the savings from discounts to lower overall premiums.
But beginning next year, some people covered by certain employer-sponsored insurance plans can collect the rebates when they fill prescriptions or at the point of sale.
The change is expected to reduce costs for about 7.5 million customers, helping them save anywhere from a few dollars to thousands per prescription.
It’s most likely to affect people who take expensive, brand-name drugs and have high-deductible health plans. Those people currently have to pay the high list price for a drug while their insurers get the discount.
Congress and the Trump administration have criticized soaring drug costs, and new Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said reducing costs is one of his top priorities.
“Today’s announcement by UnitedHealthcare 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,” Azar said in a statement.
“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 affordable. 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.”