Aetna to Pass Discounts it Gets From Drug Companies Directly to Consumers

Health insurer Aetna will begin passing discounts it gets on prescription drugs directly to some consumers at the point of sale, the company announced Tuesday.

Drug manufacturers often give insurance companies discounts on prescription drugs, but insurers have faced scrutiny over whether they’re passing these savings on to patients.

Beginning in 2019, though, Aetna will automatically apply these rebates at the time of sale for its commercial fully insured plan members.

The change will mostly benefit those with high-deductible health insurance plans, who have to pay the full price for a prescription before insurance kicks in.

Mark Bertolini, Aetna chairman and CEO, framed the decision as a way to keep drug companies honest.

“We have always believed that consumers should benefit from discounts and rebates that we negotiate with drug manufacturers,” he said in a statement. “Going forward, we hope this additional transparency will encourage these companies to rationalize their pricing and end the practice of annual double-digit price increases.”

Aetna, which is awaiting approval from the Department of Justice to merge with CVS Health, estimates that about 3 million Aetna members could benefit from the change.

Aetna said the majority of these rebates had been passed on to employers and their employees through lower premiums, a practice that has faced scrutiny under the Trump administration.

“Patients shouldn’t face exorbitant out-of-pocket costs, and pay money where the primary purpose is to help subsidize rebates paid to a long list of supply chain intermediaries, or is used to buy down the premium costs for everyone else,” Scott Gottlieb, Food and Drug Administration commissioner, said earlier this month.

UnitedHealthcare announced in early March it would take similar steps in passing along savings it gets on prescriptions straight to the consumers who buy them. 

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