About AIDS

Supreme Court Opens Door to Broad Discrimination

The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear an appeal against an insurance company's cap on lifetime benefits for AIDS treatment. The two Mutual of Omaha policies give maximum HIV benefits of $15,000 and $25,000 respectively, while non-AIDS-related conditions have $1 million caps. The HIV+ policyholders won a 1998 challenge to the caps, but that decision was overturned last summer in the 4th Circuit Appeals Court in Chicago. The appeals court ruled that while the Americans with Disabilities Act ensures access to insurance, it does not regulate the content of insurance policies, saying that such limits were just a business decision, not discrimination. But note that only HIV/AIDS was capped, nothing else.

All Americans should be concerned about the precedent this sets. Is this a green light to insurance companies to, willy-nilly, severely limit benefits paid for certain diseases, while not capping others (even though such chronic conditions may be held to be disabilities)? Kidney conditions, diabetes, certain cancers, and neuro-muscular disorders particularly come to mind. Potentially millions of people may find their access to private care cut off.

All taxpayers should be concerned as well. The costs of care don't go down just because a patient doesn't have insurance; the cost just shifts to the local public system instead of the enormous private insurance economy. John and Jane Citizen then get to pick up the tab.

The economics of HIV/AIDS care are well-known today, and any insurance company should be able to plan - and charge - accordingly. Discrimination against HIV-infected people should not be permitted to continue.

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