Letter: Blue Cross policy change targets low-, moderate-income HIV patients

Your Feb. 12 story by Ted Griggs (“Blue Cross decision affects some HIV/AIDS enrollees”) raises important questions about what motivated Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana to announce on Feb. 7 that it would no longer accept insurance payments from unrelated third parties.

Subsequent company statements suggest that this new policy is a bit disingenuous and hints of animus toward people living with HIV.

The issue here is the use, by the state of Louisiana, of Ryan White funds to help pay insurance premiums for people with HIV. Ryan White funding is the largest source of public funds specifically for people with HIV. Louisiana receives about $50 million in Ryan White funding to help people with HIV secure medical care and, thereby, slow the transmission of HIV. Blue Cross says as an anti-fraud measure it will not accept checks from the state of Louisiana to help pay insurance premiums for people with HIV. Really?

On Feb. 10, Blue Cross released a statement saying: “We are acting in the best interests of our current and future policyholders to take as many precautions against potential fraud, waste and abuse as we can, protecting the financial stability of our company and our customers’ premium dollars.”

Blue Cross acknowledges that only a “very few’ of their customers are affected by the new policy. In fact, as of January, only 1,355 people with HIV had private insurance premiums paid for by the state of Louisiana, as noted in your Feb. 13 article.

Assuming these 1,355 policies were with Blue Cross, it would represent only 1 percent of the 128,413 individual policies Blue Cross has in effect. So, are we to believe that 1 percent or less of their business tied to people with HIV is a threat to the financial stability of the largest and most profitable insurance company in our state? Something doesn’t add up.

These actions by Blue Cross smell like an attempt to exclude low- and moderate-income people with HIV from private insurance coverage since people with HIV represent the largest and most identifiable group with a third party making premium payments on their behalf. At best, this is a case of unintended consequences. At worst, it is a form of de facto discrimination.

Finally, this policy undermines the public health efforts to slow the transmission of HIV by getting and keeping people with HIV in comprehensive medical care.

Moriba Karamoko

director, Louisiana Consumer Healthcare Coalition

Breaux Bridge