New York Will Investigate Reports of Gay Men Denied Insurance
State financial regulators in New York said Wednesday that they would investigate reports that gay men have been denied insurance policies covering life, disability or long-term care because they were taking medication to protect themselves against H.I.V.
Such denials would amount to illegal discrimination based on sexual orientation, and the companies doing so could be penalized, said Maria T. Vullo, the state’s superintendent of financial services.
The investigation was triggered by an article published Tuesday by The New York Times, she said.
The Times reported that various insurers around the country had denied policies to gay men after learning they took Truvada, a cocktail of two anti-AIDS drugs, to avoid catching H.I.V. through sex. To get insurance, some men even stopped taking the protective drugs.
The practice — known as “pre-exposure prophylaxis,” or PrEP — is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Studies have shown that people who take the drug every day have nearly a zero chance of becoming infected, even if they are in a long relationship with an H.I.V.-infected person or have sex with many strangers without condoms.
AIDS experts have condemned the insurance denials as both discriminatory and nonsensical, because they deny policies to good risks — men who protect themselves.
“This is tantamount to penalizing applicants based on sexual orientation,” Ms. Vullo said. “Insurers cannot choose to deny coverage based on discriminatory reasons.”
She encouraged any New York State residents who believe they have been denied coverage because of PrEP to contact her agency, which oversees insurers doing business in New York.
Asked if other states planned similar action, she said she did not know but believed California regulators “will be aligned with me on this issue.”
Insurers often do not explain why they turn down an application, but regulators have the power to ask exactly what criteria they use, to rule some criteria invalid, and to demand the records of individual cases, said Richard Loconte, a spokesman for the department.
Bennett Klein, a Boston-based lawyer for GLAD (GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders), which is suing Mutual of Omaha for denying long-term-care insurance to a gay man taking Truvada, said the decision by New York State was “terrific.”
As news of his lawsuit spread, he said, he was contacted by men in various states saying they had experienced similar denials. He did not yet know of any other state taking action like New York’s, he added.