Lambda Legal is marking World AIDS Day on Wednesday, December 1, by urging 12 leading health insurance companies to issue clear policies on covering organ transplants for HIV-positive patients. Lambda Legal says that as more HIV-positive people live longer due to successful antiretroviral therapy, they are increasingly needing lifesaving organ transplants but are commonly denied such surgeries by health insurance companies because they are deemed experimental or unproven for people living with HIV. "We are hearing from more and more people with HIV who are being denied lifesaving transplants, despite medical and scientific standards," Lambda Legal executive director Kevin Cathcart said in a press release. "These insurance companies have a duty to clearly tell people where they stand."
Lambda Legal sent letters earlier this month to 12 of the nation's top health insurance companies, asking for copies of their policies on covering transplants for people with HIV. The companies are Assurant, Aetna, Aflac, Anthem, BlueCare, Cigna, Healthnet, Humana, PacifiCare, United Health, Wellpoint, and Wellchoice. None have responded with existing or new policies. "HIV itself isn't necessarily a death sentence anymore--but it becomes one when health insurance companies refuse to let people have the transplants they desperately need," said Cathcart.
Lambda Legal has recently argued successfully to get Medicaid and Kaiser Permanente to reverse their initial decisions to deny HIV-positive patients liver and kidney transplant surgeries by pointing to mainstream medical journals that show no evidence of poorer survival among otherwise healthy HIV-positive patients who are receiving antiretroviral therapy.