Blue Cross sued over HIV patient decision

Feb. 26, 2014 at 3:07 PM

BATON ROUGE, La., Feb. 26 (UPI) -- An HIV-positive Louisiana man is suing Blue Cross-Blue Shield, alleging the company changed its rules on patient acceptance to avoid taking him as a customer.

John East of Baton Rouge, La., has filed suit against the health insurance company and two others, arguing a rule change -- just before provisions of the Affordable Care Act prohibiting discrimination based on pre-existing conditions went into effect -- was meant to turn away low income HIV-positive people.

The suit alleges Blue Cross announced it would not accept premium payments from the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program, a federal fund that helps low-income HIV patients pay for health insurance.

A Blue Cross spokesman told Courthouse News Service the change was made on recommendation from the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, which advised insurers not to accept premium subsidies from outside groups.

But the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid has since clarified the advisory and said insurers should accept premium support from the federally run Ryan White fund.

East charges in a 41-page suit filed in federal court Blue Cross is refusing service because of his HIV status.

The suit seeks an injunction, financial damages based on discrimination under the Affordable Care Act, and a requirement that the insurer to provide him service.

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