The California Department of Insurance has been looking into cases of well-known insurance companies charging higher, limiting or denying life, long-term care and disability policies to persons who used the HIV-prevention medication Truvada.
According to the agency, doing so means the insurance companies are in violation of the law due to their discriminatory practices.
The agency’s spokesman did not list any specific insurance companies but noted that it was common practice of denying policies to individuals who had used the medication, which is also called PrEP. This is why the agency felt it was time to send out a notice across the industry.
Ged Kenslea with the AIDS Healthcare Foundation said he’s not surprised by the agency’s findings. The organization has been well aware of the insurance companies’ discrimination practice. He said the move is wrong because people should not be punished for trying to protect themselves.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates there are 11 million people in the U.S. with HIV. In 2017, there were over 38,000 new cases. According to information from the CDC, when the PrEP is taken every day, the medication can greatly reduce the risk of catching HIV.
After the department’s initial findings and warning, many insurers have claimed to stop the discriminatory practice. However, the agency is doing follow-ups to ensure this is indeed happening.
A department spokesman said embracing PrEP is a key way in preventing the spread of HIV, which is why there should be no barriers for people who want to use it. He said there is even greater urgency as the federal government recently demanded health insurance companies to provide the drug to policyholders for free – all in the effort to reduce the speed in which HIV is spread.
American Council of Life Insurance Regional Vice President John Mangan said the organization was made aware of the concerns the state’s insurance commissioner has and companies are continuously looking over their practices to maintain their compliance with the state’s laws.
Kenslea said he’s happy to see the state stepping into to hold these companies accountable, but doesn’t think the practice will end against people who use PrEP. He said it’s putting faith in these companies that they’ll do the right thing.