Saturday, August 17, 2013

It's That Man Again

(Editorial cartoon by Joel Pett / Lexington Herald-Leader (June 3, 2013) and featured at McClatchy DC.)

One of the most unpleasant moments of a CVS PR executive's day has to be when a message is delivered indicating that David Lazarus of the Los Angeles Times has a few more questions about CVS pharmacy policies.  Lazarus is still working hard to reveal the mega-pharmacy's shoddy practices.

Since February, CVS Caremark has been pushing its pharmacists to enroll customers in a prescription-drug rewards program.

The benefit to customers is the opportunity to earn up to $50 a year in store credits that can be used to buy shampoo, toothpaste or other products.

The benefit to CVS is persuading pharmacy customers, through questionable means, to give up federal privacy safeguards for their medical information and permitting the company to share people's drug purchases with others. ...

The fine print on CVS' website says that "each person must sign a HIPAA Authorization to join" and that "you must re-sign the HIPAA Authorization once per year to retain active enrollment."

Among the site's frequently asked questions for the program is, "Why do I need to sign a HIPAA Authorization?"

The answer: "The HIPAA Authorization allows CVS/pharmacy to record the prescription earnings of each person who joins the ExtraCare Pharmacy & Health Rewards program."...

Basically, HIPAA requires insurers, hospitals, doctors, dentists and pharmacies to keep your medical information under wraps. Breaking the law can result in civil and criminal penalties, including prison terms and fines of up to $1.5 million for each violation.

What CVS calls a "HIPAA Authorization," therefore, is not to be taken lightly. Nor is it simply a matter of allowing the company "to record the prescription earnings" of ExtraCare members, as CVS indicates during the final stage of the enrollment process. ...

Rite-Aid and Walgreens have found ways to reward drug customers without violating their HIPAA protections.

What is it about CVS' program that necessitates customers abandoning their federal privacy rights? CVS isn't saying.

But $50 worth of store credits is hardly fair compensation for such a marketing prize.
   [Emphasis added]

So what's the problem?

Well, that last paragraph says it all.  CVS isn't just collecting that information, it's passing it on to the people who are making the drugs, and I think it's clear that CVS isn't just handing over that information free of charge.  That corporation has found yet a new revenue source, one that doesn't cost them much at all, just a few bucks for cheap cosmetics or toothpaste sold at a premium anyway.

I hope David Lazarus continues this crusade until the state and fed AGs finally get involved to halt these corrupt practices which are costing patients and health care insurers bundles.

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