BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana (BCBS) and two other Louisiana insurers agreed to continue to accept federally-funded third party premium payments on behalf of lower-income Louisianans living with HIV through Nov. 15 when the next open enrollment period begins.
The decision came during a US District Court hearing on March 10.
"This will maintain critical health care coverage for lower-income Louisianans living with HIV through the current insurance plan year," said Scott Schoettes, senior attorney and HIV National Project director at Lambda Legal. "There was a Sword of Damocles hanging over our client and other Louisianans, with these insurers having previously indicated that in just three weeks they would stop accepting the federal Ryan White Program insurance premium subsidies that enable many people living with HIV to afford life-saving health coverage. That imminent threat has been removed."
The decision is the latest development in Lambda Legal's lawsuit filed February 20 against BCBS, Louisiana Health Cooperative and Vantage Health Plan. The development occurred during a hearing in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana on Lambda Legal's request for a preliminary injunction requiring the insurers to accept federal Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program funds for the duration of the lawsuit.
BCBS had earlier said it would cease accepting the payments after March 31, and the other insurance companies indicated they would follow suit, risking the health and lives of potentially thousands of lower-income Louisianans living with HIV who depend upon the federal funds to purchase and preserve health care coverage.
"Continued insurance coverage and access to health care services and medications is critical for people living with HIV," Schoettes added. "Moreover, BCBS has been accepting these federally-funded payments for years, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has made it clear that they should continue to do so. The lawsuit alleged that this abrupt move by these insurers was inexcusable and discriminatory, and we are relieved they have agreed to continue accepting these payments for at least another seven months."