Humana Joins Cigna’s Drug Buying Group Ascent Health Services

Ascent Health Services (Ascent Health) is a pharmaceutical group purchasing organization that is part of Evernorth, a subsidiary of Cigna Corporation.

Humana has agreed to join Ascent Health in a move that the health insurer says will help drive down its drug costs for its commercial members. Beginning April 1, Humana will join Ascent Health to give it access to greater discounts from drug makers.

Ascent Health manages commercial rebates, the payments that drug makers make to health plans. The agreement covers drug contracting and negotiations for Humana’s commercial business.

Commercial medical plans account for only a small portion of overall membership at Humana, which is focused on private Medicare Advantage plans for seniors. The company reported about 1.3 million members in commercial medical plans as of Sept. 30, compared with 8.4 million in its Medicare business.

Cigna shifted the organizational structure of the pharma supply chain in January 2020 by expanding the Ascent Health contracting entity (brand drug rebate negotiation) in collaboration with Prime Therapeutics and withdrawing the Econdisc Solutions GPO (sourcing generic pharmaceuticals) from its partnership with Walgreen’s WBAD sourcing entity.

Cigna and Humana both sell health insurance and other medical services, including pharmacy benefits. Cigna has expanded its footprint in the pharmacy business since its 2018 acquisition of Express Scripts.

In 2019, Cigna announced a three-year deal to work with Prime Therapeutics LLC, a pharmacy-benefit manager owned by Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans.


Takeaway: Health insurers Humana and Cigna hope to get more attention at the negotiating table for drugs by working together through Ascent Health