Consumer Watchdog: United Healthcare Sued for Discriminating Against HIV/AIDS Patients Recent Settlement in Similar Lawsuit Allows Anthem Blue Cross Patients To "Opt-Out" of Mandatory Mail-Order Rx Drug Program

SANTA MONICA, Calif., June 11, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In a potentially devastating move for the health and privacy of HIV/AIDS patients, United Healthcare, the nation's largest health insurer, is allegedly illegally forcing its sickest and most vulnerable members to abandon their local pharmacies in favor of United's own in-house mail-order service, according to a new statewide class action lawsuit.  As the result of a settlement in a similar lawsuit against Anthem Blue Cross, patients with HIV/AIDS may now opt-out of Anthem Blue Cross's mail-order pharmacy program.

"United's decision to force their most vulnerable members into a pharmacy program not of their choosing is harmful to the very people United is supposed to be protecting," said Consumer Watchdog staff attorney Jerry Flanagan. "Patients, not insurers, should be allowed to decide how, when and where they buy their medications."

Download the lawsuit filed against United Healthcare by Consumer Watchdog and Whatley Kallas, LLP here: http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/resources/united_hiv_rx_complaint_.pdf

United HIV/AIDS patients must now either transfer their prescriptions to its in-house mail-order pharmacy, OptumRx, or pay thousands of dollars each month for their medications at local pharmacies.

The change is discriminatory under state civil rights law and threatens the health and safety of HIV/AIDS patients. Due to the complex nature of HIV/AIDS drug regimens, patients rely on their local pharmacists who, working directly with patients, monitor potentially life-threatening adverse drug interactions and side effects.  Pharmacists also provide essential advice and counseling that help HIV/AIDS patients and families navigate the challenges of living with a chronic and often debilitating condition.  United's mail-order pharmacy replaces these life-saving interactions with an 800 number that places the burden of securing life-sustaining medications on seriously ill patients.

Patients' privacy is also threatened. For example, HIV/AIDS specialty medications often are delivered in refrigerated containers. Patients who live in apartment buildings or have medications delivered to their work place have expressed alarm that neighbors and co-workers, who do not know that the recipient has HIV/AIDS, would come to suspect that they are seriously ill.

Under a recent settlement, Anthem Blue Cross members prescribed HIV/AIDS medications have an unconditional right to opt-out of a similar prescription drug mail-order program.

"Based on our success in promptly addressing this issue with Anthem Blue Cross in California, we hope that United will take a similar approach to provide their vulnerable enrollees appropriate opportunities to choose what is best for them," said Edith Kallas of Whatley Kallas LLP.

Anthem Blue Cross HIV/AIDS patients may now opt-out of the mandatory prescription drug mail-order program by contacting Anthem Blue Cross's mail-order pharmacy, CuraScript, on a dedicated toll-free telephone line: (888) 310-4043. Blue Cross consumers who opt-out of the mail-order program can continue buying their medications and accessing services at their local pharmacy without penalty.

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

The lawyers of Whatley Kallas, LLC have been repeatedly recognized in legal publications, such as The National Law Journal and American Lawyer, by their peers and by leaders of organized medicine for their work in the healthcare field. For more information, go to: http://www.whatleykallas.com/

SOURCE Consumer Watchdog



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