People living with HIV/AIDS and insured through Cigna, one of the nation’s largest health insurers, will no longer be required to buy their antiretroviral medications by mail order under a legal settlement reached in U.S. District Court in Fort Lauderdale and announced Friday.
Cigna agreed to change its policy after a nonprofit patient advocacy group, Consumer Watchdog, filed suit in April claiming that the health insurer’s mail-order-only policy risked the health and privacy of its patients. Lack of choice, the lawsuit claimed, equated to discrimination.
Consumer Watchdog argued that patients rely on local pharmacists to monitor adverse drug interactions and side effects with life-threatening potential, and that pharmacists also provide advice and counseling to HIV/AIDS patients. Some patients also said they were concerned about a lack of privacy with mail order drugs because HIV/AIDS medications often are delivered in refrigerated containers.
Under the settlement, Cigna consumers with HIV or AIDS now can buy their antiretroviral medications from any in-network retail pharmacy beginning Dec. 1. Cigna consumers enrolled in individual or small group plans can begin on Jan. 1. In addition, patients who paid more for their prescriptions as result of the mail order requirement may seek reimbursement of their out-of-pocket costs.