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Equal Insurance HIV Act announced to end discrimination against HIV-positive Californians for life and disability income insurance

News: 2020 Press Release

For Release: February 11, 2020
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Equal Insurance HIV Act announced to end discrimination against HIV-positive Californians for life and disability income insurance
Proposed bill will ensure people living with HIV have equal access to life and disability income insurance

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Today Senator Lena Gonzalez (D - Long Beach), Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, and Equality California announced the Equal Insurance HIV Act, Senate Bill 961, to stop insurance companies from denying life and disability income insurance coverage based solely on HIV status. This bill would enact anti-discrimination protections in life and disability income insurance products for those living with HIV by banning HIV discrimination to ensure they have equal access to the coverage they deserve.

"Everyone deserves access to life and disability income insurance, regardless of preexisting conditions," said Senator Lena Gonzalez. "I am so proud that my first bill introduced in the legislature will ensure access to these critical resources for residents who are HIV-positive. It is time that we end the practice of insurance companies refusing to provide services to those who need it most."

This proposed bill overturns a law passed in 1989 when treatment for someone who tested HIV-positive was extremely limited. Therapies were ineffective, highly expensive, and came with severe side effects causing many individuals who were HIV-positive to bypass treatment. Today, with access to health care, advancement in HIV testing, and more effective treatment, a person who is HIV-positive and undergoes and remains on treatment can live a long healthy life. HIV status is treated by medical professionals like any other treatable chronic condition.

"A person should not be defined by their HIV status and it should not be the only factor when determining their right to insurance protection," said Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara. "People living with HIV are raising families and seeing their children grow up just like anyone. This legislation is crucial to ensure they have equal access to the same kinds of insurance that helps us all plan for the future."

With HIV-positive people living longer healthy lives, their need for life and disability income insurance is imperative to protect themselves and their families. Current California law allows insurers to deny coverage for life or disability income insurance to HIV-positive individuals based on positive results of an enzyme-linked immunoassay (ELISA) test followed by a positive Western Blot Assay performed by or at the direction of the insurer – tests that are no longer commonly used today.

"Thanks to modern medicine, people living with HIV lead happy, healthy lives," said Equality California Executive Director Rick Zbur. "It’s time for our laws to keep up with the science and protect Californians living with HIV from insurance discrimination. Our goal to end HIV by 2030 means ending all HIV transmissions, deaths and stigma. This bill is a critical step to getting there."

A person’s HIV-positive status should be treated in the same way as any other chronic condition in the writing of life and disability income insurance. This bill proposal will ensure that life and disability insurance companies can no longer use an outdated and discriminatory insurance underwriting law that allows insurers to refuse life and disability income insurance applications for HIV-positive individuals based solely on a positive HIV test.

"The life expectancy of people who are HIV-positive has dramatically changed in the last two decades thanks to highly effective HIV treatment regimen including new antiretroviral drugs and existing antiretroviral therapy," said Dr. Tasnim Khan, Chief Medical Officer of One Community Health. “It is now time to acknowledge the advances in HIV care and prevention and update the law to prevent discrimination against HIV positive individuals.”

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Media Notes:

  • Livestream video from announcement is available at and
  • Graphics available for download.
  • Fact sheet
  • Disability income insurance provides supplementary income in the event an illness or accident results in a disability that prevents the insured from working at their regular employment. Benefits are usually paid monthly so the insured can maintain a comparable standard of living and pay recurring expenses.
  • The Affordable Care Act, which was signed into law in March 2010, eliminated the pre-existing condition requirement imposed by health plans so insurance companies could no longer deny health insurance coverage to a person or charge a person more just because they have a pre-existing condition.

Led by Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, the California Department of Insurance is the consumer protection agency for the nation's largest insurance marketplace and safeguards all of the state’s consumers by fairly regulating the insurance industry. Under the Commissioner’s direction, the Department uses its authority to protect Californians from insurance rates that are excessive, inadequate, or unfairly discriminatory, oversee insurer solvency to pay claims, set standards for agents and broker licensing, perform market conduct reviews of insurance companies, resolve consumer complaints, and investigate and prosecute insurance fraud. Consumers are urged to call 1-800-927-4357 with any questions or contact us at via webform or online chat. Non-media inquiries should be directed to the Consumer Hotline at 800-927-4357. Teletypewriter (TTY), please dial 800-482-4833.

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