With insurance coverage — and by extension access to life saving medical care and medicine, for thousands of Louisiana residents — at stake, Lambda Legal filed suit in federal court against BlueCross BlueShield of Louisiana (BCBS). The suit alleges that the insurer's decision to reject third party payments from non-related parties puts people's lives in jeopardy and seeks an emergency injunction.
BCBS sent letters to insured patients earlier this month notifying them their AIDS Drug Assistance Program subsidies will no longer be accepted. Two other Louisiana insurers said they will follow BCBS: Louisiana Health Cooperative and Vantage Health. Those two organiations have also been named as defendants in the Lambda lawsuit.
"The situation is urgent," said Scott Schoettes, HIV Project Director at Lambda Legal. "Refusing federal funds that provide life-saving care to people living with HIV could potentially affect thousands of low-income Louisiana residents. This discriminatory policy keeps low-income people living with HIV off of BlueCross BlueShield's insurance rolls, perpetuating the deliberate insurance industry practice of denying coverage to those living with HIV that the Affordable Care Act was designed to reverse. Continuous coverage is critical for people living with HIV. The health care crisis these insurers have created must be stopped."
You can read the Lambda press release and lawsuit here.
For its part, BCBS has doubled down and publicly defended its decision while trying to distance itself from claims of HIV discrimination. The insurer posted a statement online.
In January, Lambda officials sent a letter to BCBS in Louisiana expressing concern over the practice. Feb. 10, the group followed up by filing a civil rights complaint with the Department of Health and Human Services.