UnitedHealthcare Plan Participants Can Save Nearly a Half-Billion Dollars Each Year in Prescription Drug Costs

  • Switching to lower-cost options such as generic alternatives contributes to savings for consumers
  • New national survey shows majority of Americans concerned about prescription costs; nearly 70 percent of whom don’t know how much their medication will cost in advance
  • Nearly a third surveyed say high costs have caused them to skip doses or not take their medication at all

MINNETONKA, Minn.--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- UnitedHealthcare, a UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH) company, estimates that its commercial health plan participants can save nearly a half-billion dollars each year on copays if they switch to lower-cost prescription drug options such as generic equivalents.1

These out-of-pocket savings highlight the need to inform and help consumers make better prescription drug choices that will enable them to reduce their prescription drug costs and improve their health.

According to a recent national survey2 sponsored by UnitedHealthcare, 30 percent of people polled indicated that the high cost of prescriptions has caused them to skip doses or not take their medication at all. The survey also found that 60 percent of consumers who purchase prescription drugs are concerned about the costs of their medications; however, nearly 70 percent of this group often do not know how much their prescription will cost before they purchase it.

At the same time, 94 percent said they would change to a lower-cost medication if the prescribing physician presented two drug options that were interchangeable or medically equivalent.

“Awareness and use of lower-cost drug options is essential, given the number of people who aren’t taking their medications regularly due to costs,” said Tim Heady, CEO, UnitedHealthcare Pharmacy. “We’ve found with our plan participants that a combination of education and proactive outreach to support their health care decisions is needed to effect change and promote greater cost-saving opportunities.”

UnitedHealthcare’s programs are designed to help plan participants and employers better understand the costs of their medications and reduce their prescription drug spend, while maintaining high standards of clinical effectiveness. Efforts include tiering drugs based on value, informing plan participants taking high-cost medications about lower-cost alternatives, and designing programs such as the half-tablet program for designated drugs, which can reduce copayments by 50 percent.

UnitedHealthcare estimates employers can save as much as $700 million and consumers an additional $400 million out of pocket each year if they switch to lower-cost options, which include programs such as Select Designated Pharmacy.3

As part of its efforts to help consumers save money on prescription drugs, UnitedHealthcare has expanded its Select Designated Pharmacy program – now available in 44 states – allowing fully insured commercial health plan customers across the country to save hundreds of dollars a year on 17 high-cost prescription drugs4 that treat high blood pressure, migraines, overactive bladder, nerve pain, prostatic hyperplasia and inflammatory bowel disease.

The program informs individuals about lower-cost options, including how to switch from high-cost brand-name drugs to low-cost alternatives, and gives people the option of receiving prescriptions through a retail or mail-order pharmacy.

The Select Designated Pharmacy program was launched earlier this year in 32 states. So far, participating individuals have realized average savings of $25 a month, or $300 a year. UnitedHealthcare estimates that the expanded program has the potential to achieve health care savings of $91 million, including $32 million in out-of-pocket cost-savings for plan participants.5

1Member copay savings based on UnitedHealthcare commercial population where members take higher-tier medication options when lower tiers are available.

2The national CARAVAN® telephone poll was conducted by Opinion Research Corp. on behalf of UnitedHealthcare Aug. 12-15, 2010. The sample included 1,012 adults (510 men, 502 women) age 18 or older, living in private households in the continental United States. The margin of error was plus or minus 2 to 4 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence level.

3Potential plan and member savings from moving to lower-tier options.

4Lyrica, Avodart, Uroxatral, Atacand/Atacand HCT, Avalide/Avapro, Asacol/Asocal HD, Axert, Frova, Maxalt/Maxalt MLT, Zomig/Zomig ZMT, Toviaz and Detrol. The majority of these medications have multiple, lower-cost alternatives.

5Savings figured based on rollout to entire eligible fully insured and ASO UnitedHealthcare commercial population and current average annual member savings.

About UnitedHealthcare

UnitedHealthcare (www.unitedhealthcare.com) provides a full spectrum of consumer-oriented health benefit plans and services to individuals, public sector employers and businesses of all sizes, including more than half of the Fortune 100 companies. The company organizes access to quality, affordable health care services on behalf of approximately 25 million individual consumers, contracting directly with more than 650,000 physicians and care professionals and 5,000 hospitals to offer them broad, convenient access to services nationwide. UnitedHealthcare is one of the businesses of UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH), a diversified Fortune 50 health and well-being company.


Lynne High, 952-992-5708
[email protected]

KEYWORDS:   United States  North America  Minnesota

INDUSTRY KEYWORDS:   Health  Pharmaceutical  Professional Services  Insurance  Managed Care