Jan 012013
Anthem Blue Cross

Patients insured by Anthem Blue Cross who need HIV medication must move their prescriptions to a specially designated mail-order pharmacy by March 1, The move, made by the insurer to control costs, is opposed by specialty pharmacies.

Anthem, said company spokesman Darrell Ng, originally sent letters to its customers informing them that they would have to make the switch no later than Jan. 1. However, requests from state regulators and advocacy groups persuaded the insurance company to push the date back two months.

“Anthem has also agreed to highlight the process to request a hardship waiver,” Ng said Monday, in an email.

Ng said 0.1 percent, or about 8,000, of Anthem’s 8 million California subscribers will be affected by the change. Medicare patients with Anthem supplemental insurance are not affected.

Specialty pharmacies are lobbying against the mail-order requirement, saying that it could result in late deliveries of medication that must be taken daily.

“We are hoping that they see this as a violation of patients’ rights, especially for patients who need their medications on time,” said Ivy Rooney, manager of Hillcrest Pharmacy.

Ng said going mail order is about saving money while still delivering needed medications to patients who need them.

“Purchasing expensive specialty prescription drugs in bulk for home delivery benefits our members by saving them money,” Ng said.

But Rooney noted that premiums continue to increase. She added that many patients on what has become known as a “cocktail” of antiretroviral drugs do not wish to have their prescriptions delivered to their homes.

“HIV patients have always had the option of mail order, but most of them choose a specialty pharmacy because they know they can have privacy and get what they need in a timely manner,” Rooney said.