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Aetna to pass on drug rebates to some of its members

  • Aetna will automatically apply the discounts it negotiates with pharmaceutical manufacturers with fully insured plan members.
  • UnitedHealth Group announced a similar policy earlier this month.
  • Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini says he hopes the transparency will "encourage drug manufacturers to rationalize their pricing and end the practice of annual double-digit price increases."
Pedestrians walk past Aetna headquarters in Hartford, Connecticut.
Michael Nagle | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Pedestrians walk past Aetna headquarters in Hartford, Connecticut.

Aetna will pass along rebates to some consumers amid growing demand for transparency over drug prices.

The health insurer said Tuesday it will automatically apply the discounts it negotiates with pharmaceutical manufacturers with fully insured plan members at the time of sale starting in 2019. The new policy could affect 3 million Aetna customers.

UnitedHealth Group announced a similar policy this month.

Aetna said most rebates are already shared, but greater transparency is needed in the pharmaceutical supply chain in response to drug prices rising nearly 25 percent between 2012 and 2016.

Companies along the pharmaceutical supply chain have pointed fingers at one another when casting blame for high drug prices. Manufacturers say list prices aren't actually what people are paying, since they negotiate discounts with insurers and pharmacy benefits managers. The other side says drugmakers are the ones who keep raising prices.

"We have always believed that consumers should benefit from discounts and rebates that we negotiate with drug manufacturers," Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini 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."