PhotoNew York Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed a new law that prevents health insurance companies or employers from forcing plan participants to use mail order pharmacies to purchase covered prescription drugs.

The law exempts drug plans negotiated by unions. In signing the bill into law, Cuomo said it would improve consumer convenience by expanding their options.

A spokesman for mail-order pharmacy Express Scripts told the New York Times that Cuomo should have vetoed the bill -- that mail-order delivery is still the cheapest option with the least potential for error. There are many consumers who have written to who would disagree.

Consumer frustration

"This company is an absolute nightmare," Ginger, of Newport Beach, Calif., said of Express Scripts. "I have not received my medicines once before running out of the previous script. Not once! I've called their customer service so many times I should be on their Christmas card list."

Tara, of Dallas, Tex., also complains of slow service from Express Scripts.

"I get this medication filled every three months with a new script, and have been getting it filled with Express Scripts for nearly three years," Tara said. "So far, they're batting 1000: I run out of medication before I get the next order exactly 100% of the time, no exaggeration. Out of each year, I estimate I go without my medicine at least a month, and this year we're looking at six weeks already."

Not just one company

The consumer frustration appears to apply to mail-order pharmacies in general, not just Express Scripts. Medco, a competing mail-order pharmacy, draws similar complaints.

"First, they tried to deny medications that my doctor specifically requested for me because they were supposedly not covered under my plan," Heather, of Ladson, S.C., told "After reading my plan information I discovered that even if a drug is not routinely covered on the plan, Medco must cover it -valbeit at a very high copay - when directly requested by a physician due to allergic reaction to other covered drugs in the same category. When this was brought to their attention, they reluctantly agreed to cover my migraine meds."

Consumers in New York will now have the option of continuing with their mail-order pharmacy or using a local drug store to fill their prescriptions. Not surprisingly, the National Community Pharmacists Association, which represents brick-and-mortar drug stores, supported the legislation.

Local drug stores cheer

"In signing this bill into law, Governor Cuomo made the right call for public health, patient choice and New York jobs," said association CEO CEO B. Douglas Hoey. "The law empowers patients to choose the best pharmacy option for their personal health needs and preferences. While most patients overwhelmingly prefer to talk to a pharmacist in person, those who prefer to use mail order facilities will have that choice. But mail order is not for everyone and the key is leaving that decision in the hands of patients—not a large corporation with a vested interest in growing its mail order business."

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