March 12 (UPI) -- UnitedHealthcare announced changes Tuesday to prescription drug plans that pass on discounts directly to employees and bypass pharmaceutical middlemen, beginning next year.
The healthcare provider said the move should make more drugs affordable through the discount programs it rolled out last year. UnitedHealthcare said the program has already lowered prescription costs by an average of $130 per prescription.
"Patients are seeing concrete benefits from UnitedHealthcare's groundbreaking point-of-sale discount program, which is just one element in our commitment to help deliver better health, lower costs and a better experience," UHC President Daniel J. Schumacher said in a statement.
UHC said the discount program will begin with its 2020 plans.
The cost of prescription drugs has been a hot topic in Washington, D.C. In congressional testimony last month, pharmaceutical executives said high prices were a result of rebates they're forced to give insurance companies.
"None of the close to $12 billion of rebates that Pfizer paid in 2018 found their way to American patients," Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla Bourla told lawmakers, saying he'd support a system that benefits patients "at the pharmacy counter."
Last fall, President Donald Trump introduced a plan to allow Medicare to pay lower drug prices for Part B coverage. Retailer Amazon and financial institutions Berkshire Hathaway and J.P. Morgan Chase are working on a venture to lower healthcare costs.