CVS Rewards program privacy debate

6:53 PM, Aug 26, 2013   |    comments
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By Mike Rush

ST. LOUIS (KSDK) - What is it worth to you to earn credit to buy merchandise at the drugstore? That's something you need to consider if you sign up for a rewards program at CVS Pharmacy.

All kinds of commercial retailers have reward programs. Buy some stuff and earn points to buy more stuff. But CVS requires more than an e-mail address to become part of its reward program.

CVS's program is called ExtraCare Pharmacy & Health Rewards. Customers earn $5 credit for every 10 prescriptions they fill and can earn up to $50 a year. But in order to sign up, you have to be willing to give up some of your healthcare privacy.

CVS requires you to authorize giving up your federal privacy safeguards established in the HIPAA law. That's what prevents your pharmacist, doctor and other health care professionals from giving out your health information.

A spokesperson for the company tells NewsChannel 5 it's only used to gather the amount of prescriptions customers have in order to tabulate rewards, and that it does not share the information with anyone.

But Teresa Neal, an instructor at SLU's College of Health Sciences, said she would not risk it because it leaves the door open.  She believes the motivation may be marketing.

"They might use it to send you coupons that might relate to your diagnosis or other prescriptions that you're on to further enhance their sales in particular areas," said Neal.

NewsChannel 5 reached out to Walgreens and Rite Aid to find out if they require customers to sign away some of their protections.  We didn't hear back from either retailer by the time this story aired, but a report in the Los Angeles Times indicates they do not.


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