Lawsuit: Blue Cross bars HIV/AIDS patients from pharmacies

SAN DIEGO — A class-action lawsuit filed in San Diego Superior Court alleges Blue Cross of California is illegally targeting HIV/AIDS patients and other seriously ill consumers with a new program that bars them from using local pharmacies to get their medications.

Health lawsuit, medical courtUnder the new program, HIV/AIDS patients’ insurance policies will no longer cover medications at local pharmacies, according to the suit filed Friday by Consumer Watchdog, a nonpartisan consumer advocacy organization with offices in Washington, D.C., and Santa Monica.

HIV/AIDS patients will instead be required to purchase their prescription drugs from a mail order pharmacy, while Blue Cross members who do not suffer from one of the targeted conditions under the same policies will continue to enjoy full access to the pharmacies of their choice, according to the suit.

A representative of Blue Cross of California — doing business as Anthem Blue Cross — could not immediately be reached for comment.

Consumer Watchdog claims the change in programs is discriminatory under state civil rights law and potentially devastating for HIV/AIDS patients, many of whom rely on their local pharmacist to monitor potentially life-threatening adverse drug reactions.

According to the lawsuit, Blue Cross’ change will also cause consumers to lose access to drug discounts available only at retail pharmacies.

In addition to the serious health consequences of the program, patients’ fundamental right to privacy is also threatened because HIV/AIDS medications will be delivered to homes and businesses, according to the complaint.

8 comments

  • Marsha H Brady, RN

    This is unacceptable! Since the discovery of drug-resistant strains of HIV, health care providers have worked diligently to improve adherence to medications and to try to eliminate barriers to care. I know that society, as a whole, believes that HIV has become a manageable disease just like hypertension or diabetes but that's not exactly correct. If a patient who has high blood pressure takes 75 out of 100 doses of their medications correctly, most practitioners are satisfied and the patients have decent outcomes. If a person with HIV misses as few as 5 of 100 doses, they run a great risk of developing resistance to the medications and possibly not having any treatment that will work for them! Placing these medications under mail-order only restriction unfairly subjects these patients to the stress and fear of running out of their medications. As stated in the article, it also subjects them to potential violations of their rights to medical privacy. Many people living with HIV also receive financial assistance with their co-pays from local organizations who pay those charges directly to the local pharmacies. By BCBS forcing use of mail-order pharmacies, the ability to provide this assistance is taken away. IMHO, this is discriminatory and will likely cause harm. I can understand the need to try to reduce the costs associated with HIV treatment but it's not worth the potential compromise to their health! I believe the threat of Obamacare really has these insurance companies running scared and they will make every effort to increase their bottom lines, even if it means sacrificing the rights and care of a few of their policyholders. It's truly a shame!

  • Marc

    I agree completely. What is more DISGUSTING—the real (and INTENTIONAL) caveat is that this process forces HIV+ persons to VOLUNTARILY input their contact info, SS#, etc into a "special" list, therefore creating a legal database of HIV+ persons. DISGUSTING. Give people (corporations and healthcare) a digital inch, they'll take a digital, cybercrime-mile. Look how may people (and identities) have been compromised. JUST DISGUSTING.

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