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Holden's Prescription for Patient Choice in Pharmacy Benefits Passes Key Committee (AB 299)

The Assembly Health Committee has approved Assemblymember Chris Holden's (D-Pasadena) bill to give patients a choice in pharmacy health plans.

AB 299 targets mail-order prescription mandates by prohibiting any mail-order pharmacy from entering into contracts with health insurance companies when the insured are required to purchase their medications from a mail-order pharmacy.

"Let's use some common sense here. The average consumer wants to have a choice in where he or she purchases prescription drugs," said Assemblymember Holden. "These plans shouldn't discriminate on where you buy your medications. Let the patient choose what works best for him or her - a local pharmacy or a mail-order pharmacy. I am especially concerned that seniors or those with complicated conditions such as cancer, hepatitis or HIV/AIDS have access to the pharmacist of their choice."

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.

AB 299 is supported by several senior groups including AARP California and the California Senior Legislature, California Pharmacists Association, AIDS Healthcare Foundation, Target and Walgreens among others.

Earlier, AB 299 passed the Assembly Business, Professions and Consumer Protection Committee. It now goes to Assembly Appropriations for fiscal consideration.


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