“We made the decision to remove the AutoRefill metric from our pharmacies’ reporting tools,” a rep for Target tells the L.A. Times’ David Lazarus, who originally broke the story about the retail chains who use auto-refill programs to determine a particular employee’s value to the company.
The problems with placing people into auto-refill programs without their approval are many. For instance, if the customer is not a regular shopper at that chain and just happened to go there for one prescription, they could end up tied to that particular store for their refill — and having to jump through hoops to cancel the automatic refills. Numerous Consumerist readers have mentioned this happening to them while they were on vacation or out of town on business.
The retailers also benefit, perhaps unfairly, by being able to bill Medicare/Medicaid as soon as the prescription is refilled. The money is refunded if the customer hasn’t picked up the prescription after a certain period of time, but in the meantime the retailer has received what amounts to an interest-free loan. Some pharmacists told Lazarus and Consumerist that their stores would re-bill Medicare/Medicaid to give the store another couple weeks before having to refund the money.
This is why federal authorities and state regulators in California and New Jersey are now investigating auto-refill practices and policies at various retailers.
If you feel like you were placed into an auto-refill program without permission, you should contact your state’s pharmacy board and also call the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services at (800) HHS-TIPS.