New York Times Examines California HIV Testing Bill
The New York Times on Thursday examined a California bill (AB 1894) that requires health care plans operating in the state to pay for routine HIV testing. The bill was signed into law on Tuesday by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) (Cathcart, New York Times, 10/2). According to the California Office of AIDS, about 40,000 Californians are HIV-positive but are not aware of their status. CDC figures show that about 40% of the U.S. population has ever received an HIV test (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 10/1). The law will provide coverage for routine HIV testing for 22.19 million people, according to the California Health Benefits Review Program.
According to the Times, health care providers in California as soon as next year "will no longer have to manipulate the codes on insurance forms to goad private insurers into paying for" HIV tests. In addition, doing away with issues surrounding test costs is a "major step toward making HIV screening more prevalent and, in the process, removing the fear and stigma long attached to the test," the Times reports. The bill's author, Assembly member Paul Krekorian (D), said that HIV tests "should be as routine as a cholesterol or blood pressure test," adding, "It should be a part of basic preventative health care."
According to Krekorian, the law will bring California in line with routine testing recommendations issued by CDC in 2006. He added that it is part of a series of actions to make universal coverage for HIV testing more standard nationwide. "This legislation will set the standard throughout the nation by making HIV screening a routine part of ordinary preventive health care," he said.
Daniel Ciccarone of the University of California-San Francisco said that removing HIV test cost issues means that more physicians will offer the tests to patients. "I certainly feel a little less inhibited," he said, adding, "I do get letters from time to time from insurance providers asking what justified the use of this code." According to the Times, Ciccarone was referring to the codes physicians are required to assign procedures on insurance forms to obtain reimbursement. "I imagine a lot of doctors just shrug and swallow the cost of the testing," Ciccarone said, adding, "I try to rethink the case" and use various codes to indicate that a person is at risk of the virus (New York Times, 10/2).