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Earlier this year, we told you about a man dropped by his doctor for asking about PrEP. Now, we’re finding out that even if your doctor approves you for PrEP (as well they should), your insurance can deny the claim.
An anonymous patient received from UnitedHealthcare. In the letter, they deny the patient’s claim for Truvada — claiming “The information sent in shows you are using this medicine for High[sic] risk homosexual behavior.” The letter goes on to state they only cover Truvada for those who already have HIV or have been possibly exposed to the HIV virus.
The anonymous patient sent the letter to James Krellenstein of ACT UP NYC. Krellenstein posted the letter to Facebook with his commentary:
This needs to stop. UnitedHealthcare is denying people access to Truvada for PrEP because they are gay. We know of at…
UnitedHealthcare’s reason for rejecting this claim trades on stereotypes about the drug and the LGBTQ community. Several surveys have shown that a majority of doctors are less likely to prescribe PrEP if they think their patients will use the drug as an excuse for risky behavior.
Acts like this heighten the HIV stigma — and with it, the disgusting idea that disease is punishment. This is the same gross thinking we saw in the ’80s at the height of the AIDS crisis.
Krellenstein points out that the language used is particularly homophobic. In response to the letter’s claim that Truvada’s approved to “reduce the risk of sexually transmitted HIV-1 infection in adults at high risk,” Krellenstein said:
“It’s apparently just gay sexual exposure that’s not allowed. The drug is designed for people at high risk for exposure: Gay men, trans women. That’s what makes this so infuriating. This patient is attempting to protect himself, but because he was honest with his doctor, he was discriminated against. And this is just one person we found out about…how many more cases are there?”
UnitedHealthcare released a statement about the letter: “We apologize for insensitive language appearing in the letter and regret any difficulty it caused. We have updated our systems to prevent this language from appearing in the future.”
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