February 10, 2016
Press Release For immediate release
Contact: Jim Volpe, Pride at Work-Arizona 619-518-8196
Pride at Work-Arizona Action on Prescription Drug Coverage Results in Gains
Working in collaboration with TWU556 Human and Civil Rights and Occupational Health & Safety Committees, Pride At Work Arizona has been able to negotiate significant improvements in the new prescription drug coverage Southwest Airlines had implemented at the beginning the 2016. Because CVS Caremark, the new prescription insurance administrator, chose to reclassify some previously routine medications as “specialty items” many employees were told they could no longer use their current pharmacies and had to utilize the CVS Specialty Pharmacy mail order program. This consequence created undue hardship in getting medication, increased potential of missing doses and compromised the confidentiality of the employees getting medication for very personal and sensitive medical issues. Also many of these medications require rigid compliance and missing a daily dose can result in unsuccessful treatment or extreme consequences to their health.
Last week, Pride at Work, Arizona -Chair Jim Volpe made direct contact with the benefits coordinator in Dallas with Southwest Airlines that oversees the program. Jim spoke at length about the scenario many were now facing, especially those with HIV medications. Because of the stigma associated with HIV infection Jim explained the many concerns, including lack of confidentiality of unsecured packages, resulting unintended disclosure, discrimination, as well as  the loss of long standing relationships with specialty pharmacies dedicated to personalized patient care.  He continued to explain in great detail the many negative aspects being experienced by Southwest employees as a result of this change.
“The conversation I had with Southwest Airlines was respectful, comprehensive and to the point. I reviewed at length repeated examples of the harms these changes were now imposing. I made it a very real and humanistic problem for the benefits department on the negative and far reaching impact these changes were having. The advocates and allies in the benefits department demonstrated that they are dedicated to customer service and the well being of our employees and are committed to resolve these unintended consequences.”
Pride At Work Arizona was notified Monday by Southwest Airlines Benefits Department that as a result this conversation Southwest was anxious to roll back some of those changes to the prescription coverage that were now harming employees. Many employees would now be able to return to their previous pharmacies and have medications processed as before. Of the over 40000 Southwest employees there were over 500 affected by this policy change.
It has been reported that CVS has been slow restoring this rollback, and are still giving misinformation. Because the benefits department is deeply committed to the resolution of these issues they have set up a dedicated hot-line to specifically address these issues. If you have been affected by this change and are having difficulty getting your medication as a result- or if you are due to run out of your medication please call:
1-800-551-1211 M-TH 9-4 CST and Fri 9-2 CST
They have also set up an email to efficiently expedite your concerns about changes to your previous service.
Because of confidentiality and HIPPA laws Southwest Airlines cannot access your records until you call and identify yourself, requesting that they do soon your behalf.
If you are still having difficulty getting your situation resolved, please contact us directly at Pride At Work Arizona : jimvolpe@prideatworkaz.org
Pride at Work-Arizona is a constituency group of the National AFL-CIO and received it’s charter in Arizona in the summer of 2015. Since then Pride at Work-Arizona has been active in the community and has achieved tremendous support from many, including on this issue, Transport Workers Union Local 556, Civil and Human Rights Committee and TWU Local 556 Health and Safety Committee. This support makes it possible to continue our work. As a result of this issue, Pride At Work Arizona has reached out to different unions and pharmacies in the area to lend its support.