New York Times Profiles Difficulty HIV-Positive People Experience in Retaining Disability Insurance
The New York Times today profiles recent changes in insurance companies' long-term disability policies regarding the coverage of HIV-positive individuals. Since the development of antiretroviral drugs in the mid-1990s, HIV-positive people whose illness had forced them to stop working and go on long-term disability are living longer, although in many cases the drugs have not succeeded in improving their health enough to allow them to return to work. As a result, insurance companies that approved these long-term disability claims have become responsible for supporting these patients not just for a year or two but for "decades," according to the Times. AIDS advocates say that this situation has resulted in a "heightened level of conflict over such claims," the Times reports. "In the first part of the epidemic, people with AIDS were basically receiving automatic approval, but that's over," Per Larson, a New York financial adviser for HIV-positive people, said. Larson estimates that tens of thousands of HIV-positive people in the United States are currently on long-term disability. "Until fairly recently, AIDS was an imminent death sentence, so claims tended to be approved quickly and paid. And perhaps there was no review to speak of," Winthrop Cashdollar, a disability expert at the Health Insurance Association of America, said, adding, "Now there has to be [a review], because HIV/AIDS has become manageable, like some other diagnoses." Dr. Stephen Becker, a San Francisco primary care provider, said that the time he spends defending disability claims has "increased markedly" over the past three years. "If the person doesn't note a symptom in the charts every time, the insurers construe that absence as a sign that the person is better," Becker said, adding, "I think they're playing hardball" (Tuller, New York Times, 3/18).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.