We reported previously that Anthem Blue Cross was trying to force patients on expensive “specialty drugs” to start getting their medications through a mail order service (see: Fewer Choices, Rising Costs for Patient Medications). The Bay Area Reporter featured an op-ed by Chip Supanich, a member of the San Francisco HIV Health Services Planning Council and the Mayor’s Disability Council, on the topic as well, who tells us that mandatory mail order is a bad idea.

Supinach is concerned that patients fighting diseases (like HIV/AIDS) that require treatment with specialty drugs have something new to worry about: “whether their health insurance carrier will limit their ability to obtain prescription drugs from the pharmacy of their choice.”

Supinach points out that “mail order and community-based pharmacies are not interchangeable.” He argues that even though they both dispense prescriptions, patients can only get face-to-face counseling, monitoring, and other onsite health services from their community-based pharmacies. Supinach goes on to point out that adhering to prescription drug regimens can be a challenge to patients and the additional support from a pharmacist is essential to ensuring that patients take their meds as prescribed in order to help them live longer and have a better quality of life.

Anthem is arguing that the push for mandatory mail order is nothing more than a cost-cutting measure, but the fact that Anthem’s PBM and its mail order service offers another explanation (namely by forcing patients to use their mail order services, they’ll see increased profits while cutting down on the competition).

For patients in California, there might be some good news: California Assemblyman Chris Holden recently introduced legislation that would prevent insurance companies from partnering with in-state mail-order pharmacies to force patients to get their meds via mail-order.

And for those who believe that it won’t impact them, Supinach offers one final word of warning: “If Anthem Blue Cross succeeds in restricting patients’ rights and freedom of choice by implementing a mandatory mail order for its most vulnerable, chronically ill patients, isn’t it likely they have the same thing in mind for the rest of us?”