Fred Mogul, Reporter, WNYC News
Fred Mogul has been covering healthcare and medicine for WNYC since 2002.
Neighborhood pharmacies often compete with large chains, like Duane Reade and Walgreens, for customers, but the rivals have been making common cause in Albany.
Both sides want Governor Andrew Cuomo to sign a bill that would prohibit health insurers — including the state Medicaid system — from forcing consumers to buy drugs by mail order.
Insurers and some business groups favor mail-order drugs, primarily to keep costs down, but Chris Krese, a spokesman for the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, said local pharmacists deserve a chance to compete.
"There needs to be a level playing field," Krese said. "And the patients should not be influenced or financially coerced to select any one provider over another."
Insurance companies argue that selection happens all the time — with the companies choosing medical practices, negotiating rates and directing policy-holders on which providers they can go to, if they want to be covered.
The proposed law would essentially preserve the status quo. Insurers, including the state's Medicaid program, could still give consumers strong incentives to buy drugs by mail, but they wouldn't be able to eliminate brick-and-mortar stores as an option.
The bill has been passed by both houses of the state legislature, but has not yet been sent to Governor Cuomo.
When he gets it, he’ll have 10 days to sign the bill, or it automatically becomes law.