Illinois state and federal laws protect workers and job applicants from employment discrimination. Individuals are also protected against discrimination in housing and other public accommodations. Under the Affordable Care Act, health insurance companies are prohibited from discriminating against individuals because of their illness. However, a number of health insurance companies are now facing lawsuits under allegations they were discriminating against patients with HIV.
The Harvard Law School's Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation (CHLPI) has filed complaints against insurance companies in a number of states, including complaints against Humana in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Tennessee, Texas, and Illinois. Cigna, Highmark, Independence Blue Cross, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, Community Health Choice, and UPMC have also been targeted for discriminatory practices.
The complaints were filed with the Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights. According to the filings, the insurance companies are discouraging people with HIV from purchasing certain insurance plans and getting treatment. The plans in question do not cover the drugs used to treat HIV or place them in the highest cost-sharing tiers.
Under federal law, insurance providers are prohibited from using insurance plans that discriminate based on age, race, gender, sexual orientation, or illness. Federal regulators have not defined discriminatory plan design, instead, they review plans on a case-by-case basis.
Kevin Costello, with the Harvard center behind the litigation, says that patients with other chronic diseases may also be affected by discriminatory plans. The group looked at hundreds of basic health insurance plans to determine whether patients with HIV may be discriminated against based on drug coverage.
The Illinois Humana plan subject to the lawsuit places 16 of the 24 most commonly prescribed HIV drugs in the most expensive drug tier, requiring patients to pay as much as $684 a month for HIV drug treatment.
“We've been talking about these issues for years now,” said Carl Schmid with the AIDS Institute. “These things need to be addressed, and it could be through enforcement.”
According to the CHLPI, “the campaign aims to strengthen protections in the health insurance Marketplaces and eliminate insurer practices that prevent vulnerable patients from receiving the care and treatment they need. These discriminatory practices include refusing to cover key medications and requiring high cost sharing for all medications used to address certain health conditions.”
Humana has responded that all their marketplace plans comply with state and federal law. They say they are committed to working with HIV/AIDS organizations on the high cost of treatment drugs and will work with them to lower drug costs.
If you have been discriminated against it is important to speak out so that this kind of mistreatment does not go on to affect others. If an insurer or employer is retaliating against you, they may be doing the same thing to others. Speak with an experienced discrimination attorney who understands your rights and will fight to protect your job. At Benassi & Benassi, we are committed to getting our clients and their families the justice they deserve.