Written on behalf of Brian S. Kabateck
November 30, 2017
As we approach World AIDS Day, it’s important to recognize that significant disparities in the healthcare insurance industry continue to harm people living with HIV/AIDS. These individuals face discrimination and refusals to provide medically appropriate care, resulting in dire consequences.
Studies have found that LGBT individuals and people living with HIV/AIDS are more likely to report health care workers used harsh language towards them, refused to touch them, blamed them for their health problems or used excessive precaution during medical visits.
According to California law, and the law in many other states, health insurance companies have a duty to act in good faith toward their customers and are held responsible by federal law to treat all individuals equally. Unfortunately for people living with HIV/AIDS, large health care companies tend to put their own profits ahead of providing adequate coverage.
Since 2013, the United States Department of Justice settled several cases of HIV discrimination by medical providers, which were ignoring specific statutes in the Americans with Disabilities Act that guarantee equal access for individuals with disabilities—including persons with HIV disease—to public accommodations, employment, transportation, State and local government services, and telecommunications. It was part of President Barack Obama’s Barrier-Free Health Care Initiative.
Just this year, AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the largest global AIDS organization and largest provider of HIV/AIDS care in the United States, litigated multiple cases where both public and private health care agencies actively discriminated against people who are just trying to stay alive.
Organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNAIDS (leading the global effort to end AIDS as a public health threat by 2030) have been sounding the alarm when it comes to discriminating against individuals living with HIV/AIDS. Both organizations have announced Zero Discrimination Campaigns to help raise awareness and change existing laws that may permit denial of crucial health care services to people.
Our offices currently represent a man who lost his husband after PacifiCare cut off his coverage even though it continued to collect premiums on his policy. The lawsuit alleges the insurance giant wrongfully and in bad faith terminated health insurance benefits to a man living with AIDS. PacifiCare terminated payments for the man’s medical insurance while he was in need of continued care to treat his medical conditions. The company attempted to rescind the man’s benefits while it still collected premiums on his insurance policy and with full knowledge that the man was being treated for AIDS. The man and his husband successfully fought PacifiCare in a Missouri court, which ultimately found that PacifiCare’s claims were baseless. However, PacifiCare had interfered with the AIDS patient’s care resulting in the worsening of his medical condition and ultimately in his death. The firm filed the lawsuit on behalf of the surviving spouse.
KBK represents individuals battling HIV/AIDS only to have their healthcare company make decisions that could cost them their lives. Discrimination in any form is wrong, but when a health care company discriminates against someone living with a disease such as AIDS, it can be deadly. People living with this disease take medicines that slow the progression of the virus in their body.
Although a cure does not exist, antiretroviral therapy can help keep people healthy for years and greatly reduces the risk of transmitting the disease to a partner if taken consistently and correctly. Anyone living with HIV/AIDS, or any other disease, who is facing discrimination based upon their illness should contact our offices immediately.