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United Healthcare Sued Over HIV/AIDS Mail Order Drug Service

Aired 6/11/13 on KPBS News.

Claiming the new policy is illegal, the nonprofit Consumer Watchdog is suing United Healthcare over its new policy requiring HIV/AIDS patients to use a mail-order pharmacy.

— A California consumer group is suing the nation's largest health insurer for discrimination against HIV / AIDS patients. The class-action suit alleges United Healthcare is breaking the law by requiring patients to get all of their medications by mail order.

A picture of a cell forming the HIV virus.
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Above: A picture of a cell forming the HIV virus.

Under the new policy, United Healthcare won't cover HIV/AIDS drugs from local pharmacies. Patients will be required to use United's in-house mail order service instead.

Jerry Flanagan with Consumer Watchdog, the nonprofit group that's suing the insurer, said HIV patients depend on local pharmacists to keep an eye on side effects and adverse drug reactions.

United Healthcare maintains patients will have 'round-the-clock access to specially trained pharmacists.

Even so, Flanagan argued the new program is misguided.

"So what United has done is treated its most vulnerable patients in a way that undermines their health in an unreasonable way and is treating those people differently than they treat other enrollees," Flanagan said.

Flanagan added treating people differently based on their health condition is illegal in California.

Earlier this year, Consumer Watchdog sued Anthem Blue Cross for its policy mandating mail-order pharmacy service for HIV/AIDS patients.

To settle the case, Anthem agreed to allow patients to opt out of the service with no penalty.

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