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People With HIV Will Soon Have Access to Life Insurance

Martha Kempner

Major insurance provider Prudential announced on World AIDS Day, December 1, that it would offer ten- and 15-year convertible term policies to HIV-positive people who meet certain health qualifications.

Those living with HIV will be able to purchase a standard life insurance policy for the first time. Prudential Financial, Inc. announced on World AIDS Day, December 1, that it would offer ten- and 15-year convertible term policies to HIV-positive people who meet certain health qualifications.

Insurance industry and public health officials see this as further evidence that HIV is now viewed as a manageable chronic illness.

People living with HIV can’t legally be excluded from their employer’s group life insurance policies, but such plans tend to have small payouts, such as one year of salary. Policies that pay more have been mostly unavailable to those who are HIV-positive. Some companies claimed to offer such policies if individuals could meet other strict health requirements, such as adherence to antiretroviral drug protocols and undetectable viral loads, but insurance agents said that even clients who met these standards often were rejected.

Life insurance policies help people provide for family members left behind, but this peace of mind is not the only thing individuals living with HIV are lacking by being denied such policies. People are required to have life insurance in order to adopt children or undertake certain business transactions.

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Bill Grant, co-founder of ÆQUALIS, a financial services company serving people living with HIV, explained to Kaiser Health News that he realized how limiting the lack of life insurance was when his HIV-positive brother could not finish a business deal they were trying to do together because he could not get the required life insurance.

Grant channeled his frustration into starting ÆQUALIS. The company was able to collect and analyze enough data to plot new mortality curves that convinced Prudential to offer ten- and 15-year term life insurance to those with HIV.

“There’s been just enough history to project long enough into the future to get started on this path,” Grant explained.

Many with HIV are leading long lives. A 2013 study found that a person in the United States or Canada diagnosed with HIV at 20 years old, who starts drug therapy right away, can be expected to live another 50 years. Mike McFarland, vice president of underwriting for Prudential Individual Life Insurance explained in a statement: “With advances in the successful treatment of people with HIV, we are now able to offer this population the opportunity to apply for life insurance—a milestone we see as a significant step in the right direction.”

The company has health requirements for people living with HIV, like it does for other populations. It is looking for people to be at least a year out from their HIV diagnosis and six months into a drug regimen. It will require certain blood cell counts, though those have not yet been reported. Anyone with an “AIDS-defining condition” will be disqualified, as will those who acquired the virus through a blood transfusion or intravenous drug use.

The company says such restrictions are similar to what they look for with other chronic diseases, such as heart disease.

This acknowledgement that HIV can be a manageable chronic illness is a big step for a disease that was once considered a death sentence, Scott Schoettes, HIV Project director at Lambda Legal, told Kaiser Health News.

“Finally, an insurance company has realized that this is the right thing to do and that it is profitable from a business perspective to offer this product to people living with HIV,” Schoettes said. “Now that there is one company out there doing this, it will encourage others to do the same when they see that there is money to be made in this market.”

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