CVS illegally charged 11,000 women for birth control

The pharmacy chain attributes the charges to a "glitch" in the coding system and plans to reimburse customers

Published September 24, 2014 4:12PM (EDT)


One of the country's largest pharmacy chains admitted on Monday that it illegally charged nearly 11,000 women copays for birth control, in violation of the Affordable Care Act. Following an inquiry by California congresswoman Jackie Speier, CVS agreed to reimburse the thousands of women who were required to pay out-of-pocket fees for generic contraceptives, which the company has attributed to a drug price coding glitch.

In a letter to Rep. Speier's office, CVS Health's Head of Federal Affairs, Sol J. Ross, promised that customers affected by the reported glitch will be reimbursed by Oct. 1. Speier, however, is still encouraging her constituents to report the illegal charges to her office as a matter of public health education:

"I am encouraged that CVS is identifying those who have been impacted by this error and will provide them with reimbursements.  In addition, CVS must make sure its pharmacists know the core tenets of the Affordable Care Act to provide effective and legal customer service. I still urge individuals to contact my office who have been charged an illegal co-pay."

CVS Health indicated that although the coding error will be fixed by September 26, 2014, CVS pharmacists have also been empowered to escalate and get errors fixed immediately on site if any future coding errors do occur.

Speier's office has also encouraged other birth control providers about which she has received complaints, such as Target and Walgreen's, to take greater precautions to ensure that their pharmacists are familiar with the law. The ACA mandates coverage of women's preventative health services and all FDA-approved contraceptive devices, including birth control pills, patches, vaginal rings, implants and IUDs.

According to a recent study by the Guttmacher institute, 67 percent of women have been able to access contraception with the no-cost-sharing requirements -- a dramatically higher number than before the ACA was enacted. The number would be even higher, it seems, when all pharmacists understand the law of the land. Or, maybe, when there aren't serious "coding glitches."

(h/t RH Reality Check)

By Jenny Kutner

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