Harvard Law group accuses Humana, Anthem, Cigna of discriminating against AIDS patients

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Editor's Note: This article has been updated to include comment from a Humana representative.

A Harvard Law watchdog group has alleged that some of the nation’s largest health insurers are violating anti-discrimination laws when it comes to covering HIV/AIDS treatment.

The Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation (CHLPI) of Harvard Law School said in an announcement that it has filed complaints against seven insurers, including Humana, Cigna and Anthem, for offering plans on Affordable Care Act exchanges that limit patients' access to life-saving medication.

The complaints, filed with the HHS Office of Civil Rights (OCR), allege that Humana is violating anti-discrimination statutes in six states, Cigna in three states, and Highmark and Anthem in one state each.

Representatives from Anthem had not responded to emailed requested for comment from FierceHealthPayer as of press time, and Cigna declined to comment on pending litigation. But Humana spokeswoman Kate Marx told FierceHealthPayer via email that all of its exchange products are in full compliance with state and federal regulations. Further, the insurer "shares the concerns of HIV/AIDS organizations regarding the high cost of HIV/AIDS drugs," and is "committed to working with them to lower prescription drug costs," according to Marx.

CHLPI, along with state partners and AIDS advocacy groups, allege two main discriminatory practices on the part of insurers:

  • Refusing to cover vital medications that HIV/AIDS patients need
  • Requiring high-cost sharing for all medications used to address HIV/AIDS 

"CHLPI is using the OCR process to shine a light on discrimination occurring under the cloak of supposedly neutral insurance plan benefit design. When an insurer requires chronically ill patients to pay a disporportionate share of the cost of medication, it violates federal law," according to Robert Greenwald, director of the institute and clinical professor of law at Harvard Law School. 

Florida insurance regulators fined Humana back in February for not cooperating with an investigation concerning previous allegations of discrimination against HIV/AIDS patients enrolled on the insurer’s plans.

And a previous New England Journal of Medicine study found that as many as 25 percent of health plans use adverse tiering on some of the most commonly prescribed HIV medications.