CVS Caught Illegally Charging Women For Birth Control

09/24/2014 12:50 pm ET | Updated Sep 24, 2014
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CVS has been illegally charging women for birth control, violating an Obamacare provision that forces insurers to cover generic contraceptives at no cost to women.

Since learning of a price-coding error that erroneously charged approximately 11,000 women unlawful copays, CVS has moved to fix the problem and refund affected customers.

The issue was brought to public light by Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) after one of her staffers was charged a $20 copay when trying to buy generic birth control at a CVS in Washington, D.C. Such a copay is illegal under the Affordable Care Act. Speier wrote a letter to Larry Merlo, the CEO of CVS, earlier this month.

"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," Speier wrote in a letter dated September 9.

On September 19, Sol J. Ross, CVS's head of federal affairs, responded to Speier, saying that the company was handling the issue.

"Refund checks will be [sent] to affected plan members by September 26," Ross wrote. "In fact, refund checks have already started to go out and all should be received by October 1."

CVS told The Huffington Post Wednesday that it had identified the glitch before receiving Speier's letter.

"We are committed to assuring that our customers receive the pharmacy benefits that are available to them and apologize for any inconvenience this issue may have caused," a CVS spokesperson wrote in an email.

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, millions of women no longer have to pay for preventative health services and screenings, like an annual check-up, pap-smears and generic birth control. According to a recent study from the Guttmacher Institute, the percentage of privately insured women who no longer have to pay out-of-pocket costs for birth control is growing quickly.

In fall 2012, before Obamacare went into effect, only 15 percent of insured women got free birth control pills. Today, that number is nearly 70 percent. The reason not all women today have health insurance that includes no-cost birth control is that some people are still covered by plans that are temporarily allowed to disregard this provision and other Obamacare rules. Eventually, virtually all health insurance will include no-cost contraceptives.

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If you think you've been charged illegally for birth control at CVS, follow these instructions listed on Speier's website:

Customers with questions about an illegal co-pay charge, or those who want to make sure they are receiving a reimbursement and whose prescription drug benefits are covered through the Pharmacy Benefit Manager (PBM) CVS Caremark, are encouraged to call 1-800-704-6589 and ask to speak with a Tier 2 representative or supervisor about a generic birth control illegal co-pay charge to make sure that their call is immediately escalated to a staff member with override capabilities.

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