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Freedom of choice in selecting a pharmacy would be ensured by law if bipartisan legislation to be proposed by State Senators Anthony R. Nanula, D-Buffalo, and George D. Maziarz, R-North Tonawanda, becomes reality, Nanula spokesman Tony Farina said Monday.

The senators, besieged by calls from opponents of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Western New York's controversial new policy of limiting subscribers to certain pharmacies for prescription drugs, plan to introduce a bill when the Legislature reconvenes this fall that would prevent this from happening, Farina said.

Under the co-sponsored Maziarz-Nanula bill, insurers would be barred from excluding any pharmacy willing to honor the contracts of any managed-care pharmacy program or network of pharmacies dispensing prescription drugs.

The fact that some other states already have freedom of choice pharmacy legislation, and that this is a bipartisan effort, "make for greater likelihood for the bill's success in the coming session of the Legislature," Farina said.

Nanula conducted a hearing last month in Buffalo on the Blue Cross-Blue Shield policy which, a number of speakers at the hearing said, deprived consumers not only of freedom of choice but in many cases the convenience of using a pharmacy located close to their homes.

Noted Nanula: "People want the right to select their own pharmacy as we've seen from the reaction to the Blue Cross-Blue Shield network, and this legislation provides freedom of choice for consumers."

Maziarz pointed out that the proposed legislation would also protect the rights of pharmacies to have full access to the marketplace.

"We need to make a statement that we are not going to tolerate the kind of restricted network recently imposed by Blue Cross-Blue Shield," he said.

The Blue Cross-Blue Shield plan is legal, according to New York's Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, Farina noted, so the Maziarz-Nanula bill would not offer "a free ride."

People who select their own health-care provider would be responsible for paying the difference between the benefits provided under the health care insurance contract, and the cost of the services selected, Farina said.

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