A change in state policy requiring Medicaid recipients who take certain drugs to get them through the mail has led to delivery problems, leaving patients without life-sustaining medications for days or longer, Gannett’s Albany Bureau reported this weekend.
Patients, doctors and pharmacists said the policy shift — which is meant to save money in the most expensive Medicaid program in the country — endangers lives and the health of patients and might be violating state and federal law.
Recipients of Medicaid, the government health insurance program for low-income and disabled people, sometimes live in housing projects, are homeless or move often, patient advocates said. Those circumstances make it difficult to ensure expensive and necessary medications end up in the right hands.
Patients have complained of medications being stolen, signed for by strangers or returned to hard-to-reach central mail facilities, where they languished for days. Medications have also frozen, melted, spoiled or lost potency after being left in inappropriate environments.
“UPS (the United Postal Service) will put a sticker near your mailbox, or they could leave (the package) on your porch or on the floor in front of … rows and rows of mailboxes in a tenement,” said Craig Burridge, executive director of the state Pharmacists Society. “It could be a $23,000 drug. How long do you think that package is going to last?”
Burridge’s group, a lobbying organization representing mostly retail pharmacists, filed a lawsuit against the state Department of Health in October. The complaint alleges that the department violated state and federal laws that protect patient choice.
Health Department officials would not comment on pending litigation.
The Supreme Court of Albany County issued an injunction Oct. 8 stopping the health department from requiring that Medicaid patients taking any of about 400 “specialty” drugs get their medicine through mail order. The court temporarily prohibited the mail-order requirement on grounds that it might violate federal patient protections, state anti-trust laws and due process provisions in both the state and federal constitutions.