Taking preventive HIV drugs ‘pre-existing condition,’ report says
A woman who took anti-HIV medication after believing she was raped was turned down by multiple insurance companies because she had taken a drug to fight HIV, according to an investigative report Wednesday.
Christina Turner told The Huffington Post for an article Wednesday that she took anti-HIV drugs after believing she was sexually assaulted outside a bar in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Months later, after losing her health insurance, she was denied coverage by several insurance firms due to the fact she had taken a drug suggesting treatment for HIV.
She never developed an infection, she said, but the drugs taken as a precaution flagged her as a bad insurance risk.
Turner, 45, who used to be a health insurance underwriter herself, said the insurance companies examined her health records. Even after she explained the assault, the insurers would not sell her a policy because the HIV medication raised too many health questions. They told her they might reconsider in three or more years if she could prove that she was still AIDS-free.
Some women have contacted the Investigative Fund to say they were deemed ineligible for health insurance because they had a pre-existing condition as a result of a rape, such as post traumatic stress disorder or a sexually transmitted disease. Other patients and therapists wrote in with allegations that insurers are routinely denying long-term mental health care to women who have been sexually assaulted.
Susan Pisano, spokeswoman for the health insurance industry’s largest trade group, America’s Health Insurance Plans, said insurers do not discriminate against victims of sexual assault and ordinarily would not even know if a patient had been raped.
“These issues you are bringing up, they deserve to be brought up,” said Pisano. “People who have experienced rape and sexual assault are victims and we want them to be in a system where everyone is covered.”
An insurance agent told the reporter that HIV-positive people are often denied health insurance coverage, sometimes determined on the basis of whether they’ve taken any drugs that are used to prevent HIV, even if they are HIV negative.
“It’s basically an automatic no,” agent Cindy Holtzman said.
“If you put down on a form that you are or were taking anti-HIV drugs at any time, they [the insurance companies] are going to understand that you are or were in treatment for HIV, period,” Pisano, the insurance companies’ spokeswoman said. “That could be a factor in determining whether you get coverage.”
Turner’s story isn’t an outlier. Raw Story reported on a case earlier this year where a 17-pound infant had been denied coverage because he was considered “grossly” overweight, and therefore uninsurable.
After stories ran about the child’s denial of coverage by Rocky Mountain Health Plans, the company reversed its decision and said it would cover “heavy” babies.
“I could understand if we could control what he’s eating. But he’s 4 months old. He’s breast-feeding. We can’t put him on the Atkins diet or on a treadmill,” his father, Bernie Lange, told a Colorado newspaper. “There is just something absurd about denying an infant.”