Insurer Offering Life Insurance To People With HIV

Insurer Offering Life Insurance To People With HIV
WebMD News from Kaiser Health News

By Barbara Feder Ostrov

Prudential Financial Inc., one of the nation’s largest life insurers, plans to announce this week that it will offer traditional individual policies to eligible people living with HIV, a condition that for decades has excluded most of them from any but the skimpiest of coverage, company officials said.

It is the first such offering to be publicly announced by a major American insurer, and it signals a growing recognition that HIV/AIDS has evolved from a death sentence into a chronic but manageable disease, HIV advocates and insurance agents said.

The coverage, in the form of convertible 10- or 15-year term life insurance policies, will be available to people who are HIV-positive but otherwise healthy, according to the insurer.  “Convertible” term policies can be converted to permanent policies covering an entire life.

The insurer provided no further details Monday on eligibility criteria or the pricing of policies, although some insurance agents said coverage would likely be higher than for completely healthy people.

“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,” said Mike McFarland, vice president, underwriting for Prudential Individual Life Insurance, in a prepared statement.

As World AIDS Day is observed Tuesday, more than 1.2 million Americans are living with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, according to statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. An estimated 50,000 are newly diagnosed with the virus each year.

Life expectancies for HIV-positive people now are rising to the point that some American and Canadian patients diagnosed at a young age can live into their 70s. But no cure exists for the disease, which requires access and adherence to medication.  And the longer that HIV/AIDS patients live, the more they are at risk for developing other conditions, including cancer, osteoporosis, and heart, liver and kidney disease.

The life insurance industry routinely covers people with other chronic diseases, including cancer and Hepatitis C, although at a higher price than for healthy applicants. But HIV-positive people typically cannot buy individual life insurance policies, beyond minimal coverage, at any price, insurance agents said.

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