March 12, 2014
This article was reported by the Times-Picayune.
The Times-Picayune reported that three Louisiana insurers -- Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana (BCBS), Louisiana Health Cooperative Inc., and Vantage Health Plan -- agreed on March 10 to continue accepting third-party payments until November 2014, when 2015 annual enrollment for the healthcare marketplace would begin. The agreement followed a federal lawsuit filed on February 20, 2014, by a 30-year-old HIV-positive man who relied on the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program to pay for his monthly BCBS health insurance premiums. The suit, filed by Lambda Legal Senior Attorney and HIV Project Director Scott Schoettes, alleged that the insurance companies' refusal to accept third-party payment for premiums was "inherently discriminatory against people who rely on federal subsidies." The new policy would force those individuals to pay out of pocket or to give up their insurance.
Four days after Lambda Legal filed the suit, U.S. District Judge Brian Jackson issued a temporary restraining order to prevent the companies from instituting the new policy. He lifted the order when the three insurance companies' attorneys promised the companies would not change or drop any policies before a March 10 hearing. The hearing resulted in a temporary agreement that would allow the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to rule on the matter.
BCBS developed the policy after the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) recommended that insurers stop accepting third-party payments as a strategy to prevent fraud. Although CMS amended the recommendation and urged companies to accept Ryan White payments, the companies had planned to proceed with the policy changes. HHS was following an emergency rule-making procedure to resolve the issue.