Doe v. Mutual of Omaha Insurance Company
GLAD has filed a complaint in Massachusetts Superior Court charging that Mutual of Omaha Insurance Company discriminated when it denied a gay man long term care insurance because he is taking Truvada. Truvada, a form of PrEP or Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, is a medication prescribed to HIV-negative people to prevent the transmission of HIV. This is the first lawsuit in the country challenging discrimination against a person on PrEP.
Truvada, approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2004 as a treatment for HIV and in 2012 as a method of preventing HIV infection, is considered by public health experts to be a major medical breakthrough in HIV prevention, with the potential to end the epidemic.
The complaint describes how Doe, a 61-year-old Boston man, applied for long-term care insurance with Mutual of Omaha in November 2014. Long-term care insurance pays for some or all of the costs of nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and home health care for people unable to take care of themselves and is part of end-of-life planning. He received a denial letter in February 2015, which openly stated that the reason for the denial was that he was taking Truvada as PrEP. Mr. Doe appealed the denial, and his appeal was rejected in April 2015.
The claim filed with MCAD asserts that Mutual of Omaha illegally denied Mr. Doe access to a place of public accommodation based on sexual orientation and on disability. Disability anti-discrimination laws protect those who are treated adversely based on false beliefs about a health condition.
John Doe’s story
John Doe is a 61-year-old gay man “with survivor’s guilt.”
“When I walk down the streets of Provincetown, I see ghosts everywhere,” he says. Doe lost dozens of friends to the epidemic during its peak in the 1980’s and 90’s. “Every week, we were reading the obituaries of people who died at age 30.”
Like many men of his generation, he was scarred and schooled by the epidemic, and now takes an HIV test regularly and is very mindful of his health and that of his partner of 25 years.
“The AIDS epidemic changed me. It made me politically aware and politically active,” he says. “If there is anything I can do personally to stop it, I will. That’s why when Truvada became available, it was to me such an incredible breakthrough and a huge opportunity.”
Doe’s doctor prescribed him Truvada around the same time Doe’s partner’s mother became very ill. “We took care of her until she died,” he said. “That made me very aware of the fact that I am aging and have no children who would take care of me.” So in 2014, Doe applied for long-term care insurance with Mutual of Omaha, and was denied because he is taking Truvada.
“I’m trying to do the right thing,” he says. “I think insurers should be begging people to take Truvada instead of discouraging it.”