A bill expanding access and coverage to fund uninsured patients’ access to Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), the proven HIV prevention medication, was introduced in both bodies of Congress on July 17.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.) introduced the PrEP Access and Coverage Act in the House while the Senate version was introduced by California Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris.
The legislation would create a grant program to fund uninsured patients’ access to this critical medication, and would cover services related to treatment.
“For too many in our country, lack of insurance coverage and steep costs have put PrEP out of reach. That needs to change,” Harris said in a statement. “Nearly four decades since the beginning of the HIV/AIDS crisis that took so many lives and caused countless others to live in fear, we can and will stop the spread of this disease.”
“No American should contract and suffer from HIV simply because they cannot afford preventative medicine. I urge my colleagues to support this bill to expand access to PrEP. We have the medical resources to end the HIV epidemic – now we must ensure that every American, regardless of their income or identity, can access them.”
The bill would require all public and private health insurance plans to cover PrEP, as well as all required tests and follow-up visits, without a copay, just as the Affordable Care Act requires insurance to cover contraception and other preventive services. It would also fund a grant program to assist states, territories, and tribal communities in facilitating access to PrEP for people who lack insurance. Additionally, the bill would prohibit companies selling life insurance, disability insurance, and long-term care insurance from denying coverage or charging higher premiums to people who take PrEP and fund a public education fund.
“The PrEP Access and Coverage Act is a bold step towards ending the HIV epidemic once and for all. It will help to ensure that PrEP – a crucial tool in fighting HIV and AIDS – can be accessed by the communities that need it most. Because of lack of awareness, inability to access culturally competent health care and associated costs, very few people take PrEP, particularly those at highest risk of infection: gay/bi men of color, trans women, youth and women of color,”said Lorri L. Jean, CEO of the Los Angeles LGBT Center. “This Act would go a long way towards ending these disparities. It’s good for the public health and it makes enormous financial sense. It’s a lot cheaper to prevent the spread of HIV than it is to treat people with HIV. We applaud Congressman Schiff for his foresighted leadership.”