Pharmacist pours Truvada pills
Americans might think they are doing everything possible to protect their health. But those taking the prescription drug Truvada, designed to prevent HIV, could compromise their ability to buy certain types of insurance.
A Boston urologist, who is gay, was denied lifetime disability insurance because of his drug regimen, according to The New York Times. He was able to get insurance from another company, but only because he stopped taking Truvada.
Also called pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), the drug is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control as an effective way to prevent HIV transmission.
It might be good for your health, but it could harm your financial situation when trying to access certain types of insurance, says Scott Schoettes, HIV project director at Lambda Legal in Chicago.
In some cases, Schoettes says insurers have charged higher premiums, but “most of the time it’s outright denial for life, disability or long-term care insurance.”
About five years ago, when this drug was widely used for HIV prevention, insurance companies started to take notice. “It struck them because if someone was taking Truvada, they were taking it because it was used for HIV status,” Schoettes said.
Gay men aren’t the only ones following the PrEP regimen.
“Corn [the denials] seem to affect gay men disproportionately, Schoettes said. “That’s because the HIV epidemic disproportionately affects gay men.” PrEP is also more popular in the gay community.
New York State and California have launched investigations to see if gay people are illegally targeted for refusals based on PrEP use. Dave Jones, California Insurance Commissioner, said in a statement that such denials could constitute unlawful discrimination under California law.
Life insurance is a competitive industry, with nearly 800 companies vying for the same company, according to Jack Dolan, vice president of media relations for the American Council of Life Insurers. Underwriting guidelines can vary, and even with the same height, weight and medical history information, “insurers may assess the same candidate differently,” Dolan said.
In the table below, five states have laws prohibiting discrimination in health insurance based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Massachusetts is the exception.
The danger would be to discourage HIV-negative people from taking this drug when they might be engaging in an activity that puts them at higher risk. “It’s a serious anti-public health issue,” Schoettes said.
If you are denied when applying for insurance, Schoettes recommends contacting an organization such as GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) or Lambda Legal, who seek to speak to people in this situation to help develop a strategy to review these policies. Or look for a competent financial adviser, according to a policygenius guide. The Life Insurance Board advises comparing insurers to find a suitable policy.
“People should come forward and raise their voices,” Schoettes said. “Insurers think they’re up against some kind of risk factor that they should be able to account for, but they’re not. They punish people who actually reduce their risk.
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