Lambda Legal Files Administrative Complaint Challenging Louisiana BlueCross BlueShield Policy Targeting People with HIV

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February 10, 2014

Lambda Legal announced today that it has filed an administrative complaint with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Civil Rights against BlueCross BlueShield of Louisiana (BCBS) after the state's largest insurer stopped accepting federal Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program (RWHAP) third-party premium subsidies for low-income Louisianans living with HIV. The New Orleans AIDS Task Force has joined in the complaint.

Scott Schoettes, HIV Project Director at Lambda Legal, said:

The situation is urgent. Refusing federal funds that provide life-saving care to people living with HIV could potentially affect thousands of low-income Louisiana residents, and if BCBS does not recognize the error of its ways and reverse course, the only logical explanation for its conduct is discrimination. This strategy keeps people living with HIV off BCBS's insurance rolls, and smacks of the sordid legacy of years of insurance industry practices designed to deny coverage to those living with HIV.

RWHAP is a federal program through which the federal government functions as a payer of last resort, making grants to states, cities and nonprofit organizations to help low-income individuals living with HIV purchase health insurance they could not otherwise afford. Beginning this month, BCBS of Louisiana abruptly stopped accepting RHWAP premium subsidies on behalf of existing policyholders living with HIV, returning RWHAP premium checks to the state program administrator. BCBS of Louisiana also stopped accepting RHWAP premium subsidies from new enrollees.

Lambda Legal sent a letter to BCBS of Louisiana on January 27, 2014, asking that the insurance provider reverse its policy change and resume accepting RHWAP premium subsidies or explain the rationale for its abrupt and harmful policy shift. Lambda Legal requested a response by January 30, 2014, but BCBS of Louisiana never responded.

Read the complaint.

Read the letter.

Read the press release.