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Small company group insurance and disclosure
Oct 10, 2002

Thank you for this excellent resource! I am a HIV+ physician who recently joined (1 month)a small group private practice. Its time to fill out insurance forms and I have become paralyzed with fear by the question: Have I been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. I want to be truthful, but I like to know what the implications of disclosure for me and others in the company, my options, and a recommended course of action. Thank you

Response from Ms. Breuer

If the insurance form actually asks that precise question, you run enormous risks by lying. If a lie on an insurance application is discovered, you can be held liable for all premiums and all payments they may have made on your behalf. So don't lie.

But I would encourage you to ask why the question is there. Or to write into the blank, "Why is this question here?" Employers cannot legally discriminate against employees based on their HIV status,and once the employer knows, the employer can be accused of misusing the information.

Does the completed form go to someone within the practice? To the insurance company without someone in the practice seeing it? If you're willing to raise some questions, you could be helping many more people than yourself. Just the fact that a question appears on a form doesn't mean the question is legal. Or helpful. Or wise for the employer to be asking.

If you talk with the insurer about this and find that they or the employer are worried about the "high cost" of having someone with HIV on staff, their information may be out of date. You might want to chat with them about the higher cost of having on staff someone who could get pregnant or could get someone else pregnant. I have a colleague who is handling a premature birth of triplets to an employee, and the insurer has already spent over half a million per triplet, with no end in sight. Current information on the cost of treating HIV puts HIV way below many other conditions. Are they asked about on the form?

In short, respond to a question with a zillion questions of your own. YOur medical information is confidential in the workplace, and you should offer it up only under the most exacting, private and well-protected circumstances. Filling out a form that goes to a clerk in your practice is not one of those circumstances. Please protect your privacy. Medical workplaces are not unlike other workplaces; your rights still apply.

Please follow up with me if you run across further problems.



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