September 25, 2014 — After an inquiry by Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), CVS Health announced that it will reimburse about 11,000 women who were improperly charged copayments for birth control, The Hill reports.
Meanwhile, Speier also is asking Walgreens and Target to address consumers' complaints about being charged copays for contraceptives at their pharmacies (Viebeck, The Hill, 9/24).
Under federal guidance on the Affordable Care Act's (PL 111-148) contraceptive coverage rules, insurers must cover the full range of methods without cost-sharing (Women's Health Policy Report, 9/19).
After a staff member was charged a $20 copay for generic birth control, Speier sent a letter to CVS CEO Larry Merlo stating, "Although my staff member's issue was eventually resolved a week and numerous phone calls and pharmacy visits later, I am concerned that most women who are likely not familiar with their rights under the ACA may go without this essential family planning service that is supposed to be guaranteed to them under law" (United Press International, 9/25).
In a statement, Speier said it is important that CVS ensures "its pharmacists know the core tenets of the [ACA] to provide effective and legal customer service."
In addition, she is urging individuals who are charged a copay to contact her office (Kutner, Salon, 9/24). She also called on other companies to "provide training to their retail pharmacists to know and apply the basic principles of the [ACA] so that they can help identify and rectify these illegal co-pay charges for customers who frequent their stores" (Speier statement, 9/22).
CVS said the issue stems from a price-coding error that will be fixed by Sept. 26 (Salon, 9/24). A CVS spokesperson said the pharmacy chain was already working to fix the error prior to receiving Speier's letter.
In a response to Speier late last week, Sol Ross, head of federal affairs for CVS, wrote, "Refund checks will be (sent) to affected plan members by Sept. 26. In fact, refund checks have already started to go out and all should be received by Oct. 1" (United Press International, 9/25).
CVS also noted that pharmacists have been given the authority to address errors immediately on site if coding errors occur in the future (Salon, 9/24).