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Complaint alleges BlueCross BlueShield policy targets people with HIV

Wednesday, February 12, 2014
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NEW ORLEANS — Lambda Legal has filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Civil Rights against BlueCross BlueShield of Louisiana (BCBS) after the state’s largest insurer stopped accepting federal Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program (RWHAP) subsidies for low-income Louisianans living with HIV.

BCBS-LaLambda Legal said that beginning this month, BCBS of Louisiana abruptly stopped accepting RHWAP premium subsidies on behalf of existing policyholders living with HIV, returning RWHAP premium checks to the state program administrator.

BCBS of Louisiana also stopped accepting RHWAP premium subsidies from new enrollees.

RWHAP is a federal program through which the federal government functions as a payer of last resort, making grants to states, cities and nonprofit organizations to help low-income individuals living with HIV purchase health insurance they could not otherwise afford.

The LGBT legal advocacy group says it sent a letter to BCBS of Louisiana on Jan. 27, 2014, asking the insurance provider to resume accepting RHWAP premium subsidies or explain the rationale for its abrupt policy shift.

Lambda Legal requested a response by Jan. 30, 2014, but says BCBS of Louisiana never responded.

“The situation is urgent. Refusing federal funds that provide life-saving care to people living with HIV could potentially affect thousands of low-income Louisiana residents, and if BCBS does not recognize the error of its ways and reverse course, the only logical explanation for its conduct is discrimination,” said Scott Schoettes, HIV Project Director at Lambda Legal.

The New Orleans AIDS Task Force has joined in the complaint.

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