AN DIEGO, Calif. Jan. 14, 2013 - In a move that threatens the health and privacy of patients, Blue Cross of California has illegally targeted HIV/AIDS patients, and other seriously ill consumers, with a new program that will bar them from local pharmacies, according to a new statewide class action lawsuit.
Under the new program, HIV/AIDS patients' insurance policies will no longer cover medications purchased at local pharmacies. These patients will instead be required to purchase their prescription drugs from a mail order pharmacy, while Blue Cross enrollees who do not suffer from one of the targeted health conditions under the same policies will continue to enjoy full access to the pharmacies of their choice.
The change is discriminatory under state civil rights law and potentially devastating for HIV/AIDS patients. Many rely on their local pharmacist who, working directly with the patients, can monitor potentially life-threatening adverse drug interactions. Blue Cross's change will also cause consumers to lose access to drug discounts available only at retail pharmacies, which save patients thousands of dollars each year.
Pharmacists also provide essential advice and counseling that help HIV/AIDS patients and their families navigate the challenges of living with a chronic and often debilitating condition. Additionally, the time lag associated with mail order medication could be life-threatening.
In the lawsuit, Consumer Watchdog and Whatley Kallas, LLC wrote:
"In addition to the potentially serious health consequences of the Program . . . Class members' fundamental and inalienable right to privacy is also threatened. Under the Program, HIV/AIDS medications will be, in many instances, delivered to a home or business. Neighbors and co-workers, who do not know that the recipient has HIV/AIDS, would quickly realize that the recipient is suffering from a serious ailment."
Under the Unruh Civil Rights Act, Blue Cross is barred from discriminating against consumers on the basis of their medical conditions. Consumer Watchdog and Whatley Kallas, LLC are seeking a court order barring Blue Cross from continuing the mail-order program.
"Blue Cross should not be allowed to compromise the health and privacy of HIV/AIDS patients," said Consumer Watchdog staff attorney Jerry Flanagan. "This poorly conceived plan to sever the relationship between patient and medical professional should be prohibited."
Consumer Watchdog is a nonpartisan consumer advocacy organization with offices in Washington, D.C. and Santa Monica, CA. Find us on the web at: http://www.ConsumerWatchdog.org
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