Anthem settles suit, expands options to obtain HIV/AIDS meds

In a settlement, Anthem Blue Cross of California has agreed to allow patients with HIV/AIDS to obtain their medications from pharmacies, instead of its standard mail-order pharmacy program.

Anthem was sued by Consumer Watchdog after informing its members with HIV/AIDS that their medications would only be available through a mail-order company. The problem, the suit alleged, is that these members often need to consult with pharmacists for advice and counseling related to their specific drug regimen, according to the settlement.

Plus, mail-order pharmacy programs can introduce privacy concerns, particularly for people with HIV/AIDS. "You really don't want or need to have your roommate, your friends, your neighbors--or, if it's delivered to your work, your business colleagues--aware that you're getting a package every month or every two weeks from a pharmaceutical supplier," Attorney Harvey Rosenfield of Consumer Watchdog told KQED. "It just raises questions that automatically infringe [on] people's privacy."

As a result, Anthem announced that its members with HIV/AIDS can opt out of its mail-order pharmacy programs. Jamie Court, Consumer Watchdog's president, commended Anthem for quickly resolving the lawsuit, adding that it's a "big victory for people who want confidentiality, who want the help of a pharmacist, who don't want to just get a box of drugs for a very sensitive medical condition dumped on to their door step," he told ABC7.

Other insurers operating in California should take note. "If I were those other companies I would be very carefully reading the settlement and rectifying the problems that we identified in that lawsuit," Rosenfield said, "because otherwise Consumer Watchdog is going to come knocking at their door."

To learn more:
- here's the settlement
- read the ABC7 article
- see the KQED article