UnitedHealth Dropping Copays on Some Popular Drugs 

UnitedHealth Group plans to eliminate copayments and other out-of-pocket expenses for patients on some popular drugs, including insulin and anti-overdose treatment naloxone, starting next year, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal Friday (July 15).

The announcement comes when Congress is working on cutting prescription drug costs, with Democrats leading the charge to pass a broader prescription-focused deal before the legislative body takes its break in August.

During its second-quarter earnings call Friday, UnitedHealth reported profit levels higher than analysts’ expectations, with its second-quarter revenue up 13% to $80.3 billion thanks to double-digit revenue growth at Optum and UnitedHealthcare, leading to increased projections for the full year.

Insulin, used by diabetes patients, and naloxone, for opioid overdose victims, are joined by epinephrine, administered to curb allergic reactions; glucagon, used to treat hypoglycemia (low blood sugar); and albuterol, taken to ease breathing difficulties caused by asthma. All the drugs on the list are available as generics and biosimilar/copycat versions.

About 8 million people are enrolled in UnitedHealth’s fully insured plans, with about 688,000 taking the listed medications each year.

UnitedHealth also said on its earnings call that it is still on pace to add 10,000 employed or affiliated doctors and advanced practitioners by the end of the year through its Optum healthcare service arm, the report said.

Related: UnitedHealth Signs $5.4B Acquisition Deal for Home Health Biz LHC

In March, UnitedHealth Group subsidiary Optum Health Services signed a $5.4 billion acquisition deal for home healthcare business LHC Group, one of the U.S.’s biggest home healthcare agencies. Optum’s portfolio of companies includes other home healthcare firms in addition to physician groups and surgical centers. The acquisition is expected to close in the second half of the year.

LHC operates in 37 states and cares for more than 500,000 patients every year. Many of its home healthcare and hospice programs are operated in partnerships with hospital networks. The deal for LHC coincides with an ongoing antitrust lawsuit by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) regarding UnitedHealth’s proposed $13 billion acquisition of health technology firm Change Healthcare.