Lambda Legal in the News
Here’s a roundup of news coverage of Lambda Legal’s federal class action lawsuit filed yesterday against Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana (BCBS).
The insurer has said it will no longer accept the federally funded premium subsidies that enable low-income Louisianans living with HIV to purchase health insurance.
From the Associated Press:
Plaintiff John East said he has been a Blue Cross policyholder for nearly 30 years. When HIV treatment sent his premiums up to $650 a month about five years ago, he learned he could get help from the Ryan White fund. Without insurance, he would have to pay $1,306 a month for his medicine. But three weeks ago, he said, his AIDS task force caseworker called to tell him Blue Cross was going to stop accepting such payments.
"I am a contributing member of society. I vote. I pay taxes. I obey our laws," said East, 59, who is represented by Lambda Legal attorney Scott Schoettes. East said he now works part-time at a bed and breakfast, but was a Navy medical corpsman during the Vietnam era and, after an honorable discharge, spent 30 years in medical billing and collection.
"It's difficult to stand here and expose my privacy to discrimination and ridicule," but the suit is essential for him and others living with HIV or AIDS, he said at a news conference Thursday.
From the New Orleans Times-Picayune:
Lambda Legal Director of Constitutional Litigation Susan Sommer said the new policy undermines one of the cornerstones of the Affordable Care Act, which bars health insurance providers from denying coverage to individuals with pre-existing conditions. Sommer says the policy is discriminatory, and designed to "freeze out" those suffering with HIV and AIDS.
"Blue Cross being the leader, they are trying to deter people with HIV from being on their insurance rolls," Sommer said. "Lower income people rely on Ryan White subsidies, and if they can't use those subsidies, they simply can't afford health insurance. This is a tactic to freeze large numbers of people living with HIV out of health insurance, and they will have no alternatives. These insurance companies are creating a health care crisis in Louisiana."
Two more insurers in Louisiana are refusing to accept third-party payments for premiums. As a result, the LGBT group Lambda Legal and the New Orleans AIDS Task Force have filed administrative complaints with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Civil Rights, according to a Lambda Legal statement.
The decisions by Louisiana Health Cooperative and Vantage Health Plan follow the same decision by Blue Cross and Blue Shield (BCBS) of Louisiana, which will no longer accept third-party payments for its premiums as of March 1. Lambda Legal and the New Orleans AIDS Task Force have already filed an HHS complaint against BCBS.