June 22, 2010
On July 1, the federal government will provide California $761 million to create a health insurance pool for residents with pre-existing health conditions, including HIV. The program will operate until January 2014: After then, health insurers will be prohibited from denying coverage due to pre-existing conditions.
State and federal officials are working out program particulars, including eligibility criteria and premiums. However, those qualifying must have been uninsured for six months. While the federal money will become available July 1, state officials have not announced a roll-out date.
Those with HIV may benefit under the subsidized insurance pool. Although HIV treatment helps many people live longer, healthier lives, many patients still cannot afford or access comprehensive health insurance except through employer-sponsored plans.
"There are definitely a lot of people living with HIV or AIDS in California who are either uninsured or underinsured," said Michelle Roland, chief of California's Office of AIDS.
"That stress of knowing I'm not insured is always in the back of my mind," said San Franciscan Jason Villalobos, who is HIV-positive and unemployed. Villalobos receives HIV-related care from a public clinic in San Francisco and medications through California's AIDS Drug Assistance Program; however, he has no coverage for health conditions not related to HIV. Because so many of his friends who have HIV/AIDS have either been denied comprehensive health insurance or quoted rates that are too costly, Villalobos has not tried getting coverage.
"If I got sick, I'd have to sell everything I had," Villalobos said. "I'd have to go into bankruptcy." "I am in desperate need of insurance," he said.