VICTORY! Blue Cross Blue Shield To End Discrimination Against Federal Employees With HIV/AIDS, Says Consumer Watchdog

SANTA MONICA, Calif., June 16, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Responding to mounting patient complaints, the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association ("BCBS") has announced it will soon end its discriminatory HIV drug-pricing practices and has taken HIV/AIDS drugs off its mandatory mail-order drug list, which threatened patient health, safety, and privacy.

Read the letter from BCBS announcing the change in policy: http://tinyurl.com/nvtlmlv

The changes go into effect on June 27, 2014 according to the letter from BCBS.

"This about-face by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association will bring to a close a nerve-racking episode for patients with HIV and AIDS who face serious threats to their health and privacy," said Jerry Flanagan, lead staff attorney for Consumer Watchdog.

The health and safety threats facing federal employees with HIV/AIDS enrolled in the FEP Blue program are the same as those facing class members in similar actions brought by Consumer Watchdog attorneys against Anthem Blue Cross and United Healthcare.  Due to the complex nature of HIV/AIDS drug regimens, patients rely on their community pharmacists who, working directly with patients, monitor potentially life-threatening adverse drug interactions and side effects. Pharmacists specializing in HIV/AIDS medications also provide essential advice and counseling that help patients and families navigate the challenges of living with a chronic and often debilitating condition.  Read news coverage of those lawsuits: http://tinyurl.com/ojycs8m

BCBS replaced these life-saving interactions with an 800 number that places the burden of securing life-sustaining medications on seriously ill patients.

These patients' privacy is also threatened and undermined by the mail-order program. For example, HIV/AIDS specialty medications often are delivered in refrigerated containers.  Patients who live in apartment buildings or whose medications are now delivered to their workplace have expressed alarm that their neighbors and co-workers, who do not know that the recipients have HIV/AIDS, will come to suspect that the recipients are seriously ill. 

Read the demand letter Consumer Watchdog sent to BCBS: http://tinyurl.com/nbqrwvs

In addition to the health, safety, and privacy threats that shadow all HIV/AIDS drug mail-order programs, federal employees also face increased costs even when they purchase their HIV/AIDS medications through the BCBS mail-order program, regardless of whether those drugs are generic or brand name. Under changes adopted on January 1, 2014, federal employees are required to pay higher co-pays for their HIV/AIDS drugs as a result of changes to drug-pricing "tiers." This is the same discriminatory activity targeted by an administrative complaint recently reported on by the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.  Responding to pressure from patients, BCBS has also ended discriminatory drug-pricing practices.

Consumer Watchdog is continuing to investigate this and similar discriminatory behavior.  Consumers can file anonymous complaints here http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/node/add/complaint.  (Complaints can be marked private and will not be shared.)

Consumer Watchdog is a non-profit consumer advocacy organization.  Visit us on the web at www.ConsumerWatchdog.org

SOURCE Consumer Watchdog



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