Anthem backtracks on mail-order pharmacy requirement

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Anthem Blue Cross is backtracking away from its previous requirement that certain members with chronic diseases, including HIV/AIDS and cancer, buy prescription drugs from a mail-order pharmacy.

The decision comes just weeks after consumer advocacy group Consumer Watchdog filed a class-action lawsuit against Anthem, claiming its policy was discriminatory, NBC7 reported.

California Attorney General Kamala Harris said that by requiring only certain members buy their medications from one particular drugstore, Anthem may have violated state law, reported the Los Angeles Times.

"California law clearly states that no one can be discriminated against because of a medical condition," said Lynda Gledhill, a spokeswoman for Harris. "If patients are being required to get their prescriptions from a certain pharmacy because of their condition, that is likely illegal."

Anthem Spokesman Darrel Ng told Reuters Legal that the company chose to delay the specialty pharmacy program "in response to feedback that has been conveyed by our members, which we are in the process of evaluating." The insurer has mailed letters to its members with specialty prescriptions, explaining that they won't be mandated to obtain those medications from online pharmacies.

But despite the delay, Consumer Watchdog hasn't withdrawn its lawsuit, and the group is currently in mediation with Anthem over the issue. "From our point of view we're really happy with the fact they're willing to put it off indefinitely while we discuss this," said Edith Kallas, attorney with Consumer Watchdog's law firm Whatley Kallas.

To learn more:
- here's the Anthem letter
- read the Los Angeles Times article
- see the Reuters Legal article
- check out the NBC7 article

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