Insurance Discrimination Against PrEP Is Ignorant

March 5, 2018

To the Editor:

In regard to “Rosenthal Takes on Insurers’ PrEP Blacklisting” (by Nathan Riley, Mar. 1, 2018), by preventing the transmission of HIV, PrEP is helping HIV-negative individuals stay negative and serving as a key prevention tool in the fight against AIDS.

Unfortunately, some insurance companies are denying coverage to PrEP users, which makes about as much sense as denying coverage to someone because they’ve had their flu shot.

Thankfully, New York State Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal has introduced common sense legislation that would bar insurers from discriminating against those who are acting responsibly.

PrEP has been proven to be over 90 percent effective in preventing HIV transmission. Not only does PrEP enable people to take control of their sexual health, it also saves hundreds of thousands of dollars spent to treat individuals with HIV. PrEP costs an average of $55,000 over five years to treat one patient, while the cost of a lifetime of HIV treatment can cost 10 times that amount.

In recent years, we’ve seen progress in the fight to end AIDS as an epidemic as the number of people taking PrEP has increased.

However, if we are to achieve the goal of ending the HIV/ AIDS epidemic in New York State by the year 2020, we should be encouraging more individuals to consider PrEP, particularly transgender women and young men of color who have sex with men, as they are at high risk of contracting HIV.

In New York State, although PrEP use among Medicaid recipients increased by 20p percent, 82 percent of new PrEP users were male, and 37 percent were white.

Stigmatizing and discriminating against PrEP users is ignorant and dangerous. We applaud Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal for introducing legislation that will help New Yorkers access essential HIV prevention tools.

Doug Wirth

New York City

The author is the president and CEO of Amida Care, a nonprofit Medicaid Special Needs Health Plan in New York City.