The advocacy group Consumer Watchdog has filed a statewide class action lawsuit against Anthem Blue Cross saying the health insurer is discriminating against HIV/AIDS patients.
Anthem is changing its pharmacy program and will require anyone using drugs from a list of “specialty” medications to use a mail-order pharmacy, approved by Anthem. But patients seeking to fill other prescriptions may still use their local bricks-and-mortar pharmacy. “That’s exactly the kind of targeting and discrimination barred under the Civil Rights Act in California,” Consumer Watchdog attorney Jerry Flanagan says.
In a statement, Anthem denies the change is discriminatory, because the list of specialty medications includes not only HIV/AIDS drugs, but also medicines for other conditions, such as cancer and multiple sclerosis. Anthem says that the practice is already established. From Anthem’s statement:
“For many years, health plans in California and other states have sought, subject to certain exceptions, that specialty drugs be filled by Specialty Pharmacies and received via confidential home or other private delivery location that benefits the member. … This is being done with the knowledge of our regulator and applies to several hundred different drugs for many medical ailments. Anthem’s policies do not discriminate on the basis of disease states, and they are reasonable and compliant with applicable laws.”
Marta Green at the Department of Managed Health Care confirmed that there are three similar programs already in place in California from Health Net, Sharp and United Health Care of California. Green declined to comment on Consumer Watchdog’s lawsuit, saying the Department had just received it.