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UnitedHealthcare to offer drug discount rebates to more plan-holders

It launched the program last year, but will now make it available to more customers.

More employees enrolled in UnitedHealthcare health insurance plans will receive rebates whenever the insurance company gets discounts on prescription drugs.

The Minnetonka-based Fortune 500 company launched its rebate program a year ago, pledging that discounts on drugs it gets from pharmaceutical companies would be passed on to customers.

This perk was applied to 9 million people working for employers on UnitedHealth's fully-insured commercial group health plan, but the company announced on Tuesday it'll be rolling it out to more plan-holders.

Starting January 1, 2020, all new employer-sponsored health plans taken out via UnitedHealthcare must pass on the discounts they get on drugs to customers at the point of sale.

Existing employers that aren't on UnitedHealthcare's fully-insured commercial health plan will be offered the option of joining the discount program, though it won't be mandatory.

Previously, the money saved from drug discounts would previously have been pooled and incorporated when setting premiums and costs for employer health plans, Reuters reports.

But this would sometimes result in plan-holders getting sticker shock when they're told the out-of-pocket costs for a prescription at a pharmacy.

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UnitedHealthcare says that in the year since it launched its rebate program, it has lowered the cost of prescription drugs for consumers by around $130 per prescription.

The healthcare leader is able to obtain discounts for plan-holders through its sister company OptumRx, a pharmacy benefits management company that is also part of the UnitedHealth Group.

UnitedHealth says OptumRx is "uniquely able to deploy the broadest range of tools to rein in high drug prices."

"This expanded point-of-sale discount program demonstrates our commitment to delivering better prices for consumers," said John Prince, CEO of OptumRx.

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