SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Today Senator Lena Gonzalez (D – Long Beach), Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, and Equality California announced the Equal Insurance HIV Act to stop insurance companies from denying life and disability income insurance coverage based solely on HIV status. This bill proposal would enact anti-discrimination protections in life and disability income insurance products for those living with HIV by banning HIV discrimination to ensure they have equal access to the coverage they deserve.
“Everyone deserves access to life and disability income insurance, regardless of preexisting conditions,” said Senator Lena Gonzalez. “I am so proud that my first bill introduced in the legislature will ensure access to these critical resources for residents who are HIV-positive. It is time that we end the practice of insurance companies refusing to provide services to those who need it most.”
This proposed bill overturns a law passed in 1989 when treatment for someone who tested HIV positive was extremely limited. Therapies were ineffective, highly expensive, and came with severe side effects causing many individuals who were HIV positive to bypass treatment. Today, with the access to health care, advancement in HIV testing, and more effective treatment, a person who is HIV positive and undergoes and remains on treatment can live a long healthy life. HIV status is treated by medical professionals like any other treatable chronic condition.
“A person should not be defined by their HIV status and it should not be the only factor when determining their right to insurance protection,” said Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara. “People living with HIV are raising families and seeing their children grow up just like anyone. This legislation is crucial to ensure they have equal access to the same kinds of insurance that helps us all plan for the future.”
With HIV positive people living longer healthy lives, their need for life and disability income insurance is imperative to protect themselves and their families. Current California law allows insurers to deny coverage for life or disability income insurance to HIV-positive individuals based on positive results of an ELISA test followed by a positive Western Blot Assay performed by or at the direction of the insurer – tests that are no longer commonly used today.
“Thanks to modern medicine, people living with HIV lead happy, healthy lives,” said Equality California Executive Director Rick Zbur. “It’s time for our laws to keep up with the science and protect Californians living with HIV from insurance discrimination. Our goal to end HIV by 2030 means ending all HIV transmissions, deaths and stigma. This bill is a critical step to getting there.”
A person’s HIV positive status should be treated in the same way as any other chronic condition in the writing of life and disability income insurance. This bill proposal will ensure that life and disability insurance companies can no longer use an outdated and discriminatory insurance underwriting law that allows insurers to refuse life and disability income insurance applications for HIV positive individuals based solely on a positive HIV test.
“The life expectancy of people who are HIV positive has dramatically changed in the last two decades thanks to highly effective HIV treatment regimen including new antiretroviral drugs and existing antiretroviral therapy,” said Dr. Tasnim Khan, Chief Medical Officer of One Community Health. “It is now time to acknowledge the advances in HIV care and prevention and how to work collaboratively with the insurance industry to review policies on life and disability income coverage to people living with HIV.”
Equality California is the nation’s largest statewide LGBTQ civil rights organization. We bring the voices of LGBTQ people and allies to institutions of power in California and across the United States, striving to create a world that is healthy, just, and fully equal for all LGBTQ people. We advance civil rights and social justice by inspiring, advocating and mobilizing through an inclusive movement that works tirelessly on behalf of those we serve. www.eqca.org