Michigan: HIV Testing Consent Bill Could Cause Insurance Companies to Deny Coverage

A bill before the Michigan House -- HB 4583, introduced by Rep. Roy Schmidt (D-Grand Rapids) -- would eliminate a state requirement that a patient sign a consent form prior to being tested for HIV. Grand Rapids-based Spectrum Health, which requested the legislation, said the current law "creates a barrier to diagnosis and treatment that is inconsistent with recommendations from [CDC]."

In 2006, CDC endorsed opt-out testing for HIV. "We have not [implemented the CDC recommendations] under the current law because, unfortunately, a lot of our current physicians feel that [the informed consent requirement] is a hurdle," said Bruce Rossman, a spokesperson for Spectrum.

The Michigan Department of Community Health is reviewing the legislation and does not have a policy stance on it, said spokesperson James McCurtis. Debra Szwedja, acting director of the department's Division of Health, Wellness and Disease Control, said, "We feel [the CDC recommendations] can be implemented successfully in the state without changing the law."

Some advocates, however, have raised concerns about the change.

"We want to make the test more available," said Jay Kaplan the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan's staff attorney for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender issues. "But we want to see people signing informed consent for the tests."

Kendra Kleber, a Royal Oak attorney specializing in representing HIV patients, noted that life and health insurers may deny coverage to those who have HIV. She suggested the law would lead to people being tested without their knowledge, "so your results could already be in the record. Which means they are knowable to an insurance company."

A spokesperson for Schmidt said the legislator is preparing to work with ACLU and other advocates to address their concerns about the bill, which could receive a hearing as soon as May.