Massachusetts Woman With HIV, Hepatitis C, Drops Lawsuit Against Health Plan That Refused to Cover Liver Transplant
A Massachusetts woman with HIV and hepatitis C who sued her health plan for refusing to cover a liver transplant has withdrawn her lawsuit after raising enough money in donations to pay for the operation, the AP/Worcester Telegram & Gazette reports (AP/Worcester Telegram & Gazette, 7/25). Belynda Dunn had initially requested the liver transplant four months ago, but Neighborhood Health Plan denied that request, and its internal appeals board rejected two subsequent requests. NHP said that it will not cover the surgery because liver transplants for people with HIV are considered "experimental" and experimental surgeries are not covered under the HMO contract Dunn had signed. The Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders filed suit against the health plan on behalf of Dunn, and last week the AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts asked a federal judge to grant an emergency order to force NHP to pay for the transplant. The judge deferred the decision to the state Office of Patient Protection (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/19). The agency upheld NHP's decision to reject coverage for Dunn's transplant, but last Friday Boston Mayor Thomas Menino announced the creation of a "Life Fund" to help Dunn pay for the operation, which is expected to cost as much as $250,000. NHP contributed $100,000 to the fund.
Bennett Klein, Dunn's lawyer, said that his client has chosen not to press forward with the suit against NHP because she has "won the battle" to receive her transplant. Although NHP has not changed its policy regarding liver transplants for people with HIV, Klein said that Dunn must focus on her health and her upcoming operation. "Given how sick she is, it made no sense to continue contentious litigation when she is going to get everything that we've asked for in this lawsuit. ... In the future, if other insurers exclude people with HIV categorically from liver transplants we will be back in court pursuing those insurers very aggressively," Klein stated (AP/Worcester Telegram & Gazette, 7/25).