By Nicholas Nehamas
When Tony Smith lost his job as a corporate paralegal two years ago, a state program stepped in to help him keep his health insurance — and the expensive drugs his life had depended on since his 2008 HIV diagnosis.
“What we’re really worried about is a race to the bottom,” said Wayne Turner, a staff attorney at the National Health Law Program, which helped file the civil rights complaint. Turner said he fears the high-cost plans may have “skewed the market” and that in order to avoid having their risk pool burdened by people with expensive health needs, competitors may increase what they charge for HIV drugs.
Some of the ACA plans have other drawbacks, such as limiting patients to a 30-day supply of medicine instead of a 90-day supply and requiring prior authorization from insurers before every refill. A 2012 study conducted by the pharmacy chain Walgreens and published by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which regulates plans sold on the exchange, found that patients with 90-day supplies took their medicine more regularly and had greater cost savings than those with 30-day supplies.
Turner said that with the confusion of the exchange’s launch out of the way, the time was right “for the federal government to send a strong message to plans that they can’t design their benefits in a way that discriminates against people with HIV.” Read the full article here. »