Sacramento, CA – Assemblymember Chris Holden's bill to ensure consumers have a choice in their pharmacy health plans has been overwhelmingly approved (7 to 2) in the Assembly Business, Professions and Consumer Protections Committee.
AB 299 follows reports earlier this year that health insurer Anthem Blue Cross was going to require thousands of its California patients with chronic diseases such as cancer, rheumatoid arthritis and HIV/AIDS to buy prescription drugs from a mail order pharmacy. Anthem has since backed off while they reevaluate the requirement. But Assemblymember Holden felt it was important to go ahead with the legislation to ensure consumers have a choice.
"We want to make sure that people who take specialty drugs are not being discriminated against," said Assemblymember Holden. "Forcing patients to use mail-order pharmacies could create a difficult situation for many patients with severe illnesses. Seniors especially feel comfortable with their local pharmacies because they are part of the community. If you want to order by mail, fine, but consumers should have a choice to buy local."
AB 299 would prohibit any mail-order pharmacy from entering into an agreement with an insurance plan or disability insurer that requires the use of a mail-order pharmacy for drugs or requires the patient to opt-out of the requirement.
"We were pleased to learn of the successful passage of AB 299 today in the Assembly Business, Professions, and Consumer Protection Committee, and we applaud Assembly Member Holden for his leadership on this issue," said Jon R. Roth, CEO of the California Pharmacists Association. "The Committee's action today was a significant victory for patients and protecting consumer choice in pharmacy benefits."
AB 299 is heard in the Assembly Health Committee next week.