ALBANY -- Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday signed legislation that would prohibit insurers from requiring patients to get prescriptions through the mail.
The Democratic governor sought to strike a compromise between advocates and opponents of the measure, saying that lawmakers have agreed to pass an amendment to the law to create price fairness between store pharmacies and mail-order businesses.
The law will allow people to fill any prescription covered by mail order at an independent retail pharmacy as long as the pharmacy price was comparable.
Cuomo said the law will be contingent about lawmakers approving an amendment that retail pharmacy must agree in advance to accept the same reimbursement rate as mail-order pharmacies.
He also signed a second bill with the same provisions. The second bill would let a customer purchase fertility drugs at a pharmacy instead of a mail-order pharmacy.
"With the understanding that these amendments will be passed, I approve these bills," Cuomo wrote in the bill memo.
There was no date provided when the measures would take effect.
The Pharmacists Society of the State of New York has been pushing for the bill since it was passed by the Legislature last spring. The group said the bill would help counter the loss of jobs and community drugstores. But insurers argued that the number of licensed pharmacists has been growing and that mail-order drug businesses provide hundreds of jobs in New York.
About 375 independent pharmacies in New York have closed since 2008, according to the Pharmacists Society, which is based in Albany. The group estimates that between $4 billion and $5 billion for prescriptions leaves the state each year.
"This is a tremendous victory for all pharmacies in New York State and the millions of New Yorkers they serve," the Pharmacists Society said in a statement.
The Pharmaceutical Care Management Association, which opposed the bill, said they respected Cuomo's attempt to find a balance between pharmacies and mail-order businesses.
"Employers, taxpayers, and consumers appreciate Governor Cuomo's admonition to the Legislature to improve this costly, anti-consumer bill," Mark Merritt, CEO of the Washington-based group, said in a statement. "In this economy, employers need every cost-saving tool they can get and mail-service pharmacy is at the top of the list."
Joseph Spector/Gannett Albany Bureau