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ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU NEWS RELEASE * NEWS RELEASE * NEWS RELEASE * NEWS RELEASE ACLU Files AIDS Discrimination Suit; Challenges South Carolina Insurance Risk Pool For IMMEDIATE RELEASE April 6, 1993 The American Civil Liberties Union has challenged the exclusion of people with AIDS of HIV infection from the South Carolina Insurance Risk Pool. The complaint, filed in Federal District Court in Columbia on March 26, seeks to allow people with AIDS and HIV disease to receive insurance coverage from the risk pool. Established in 1989, the Insurance Risk Pool is a state insurance program for people who can afford but cannot obtain private health insurance because of pre-existing health conditions. Unlike approximately 20 other states with Insurance Risk Pools, however, South Carolina specifically exempts people diagnosed with AIDS and HIV infection from participation in the Pool. It is the only disqualifying disease the State of South Carolina recognizes. "South Carolina is the only state in the country that deliberately prevents people with AIDS from obtaining the medical assistance they need," said Steven Bates, Executive Director of the South Carolina ACLU. "Only meanness, bigotry, and ignorance can explain such discrimination". Participation in the Risk Pool is available to every other uninsurable South Carolina resident whose age, income, and assets make them ineligible for other government-funded insurance programs like Medicare and Medicaid. People whose premiums for comparable coverage from a private insurer exceeds 150 percent of the pool rate are also eligible. Participants in the Risk Pool pay premiums that are 200 percent to 300 percent of the rate for comparable basic commercial insurance. Health insurance companies doing business in South Carolina pay any remaining costs of the program. A pre-existing serious health problem is no bar to participation in the plan. Insurance Risk Pools are created specifically to provide health care coverage for people with high risk, high cost ailments that private insurance companies will not insure. "This lawsuit is an important national test case because South Carolina is the only insurance pool in the United States that excludes people with HIV disease," said William B. Rubenstein, Director of the ACLU's National AIDS Project. "This case is also being brought to test the applicability of the new Americans in Disabilities Act to discrimination in government programs." Despite a common perception that the cost of treating AIDS is too high for the State to bear, the disease is not more expensive than many diseases that are covered. The S.C. Insurance Risk Pool accepts patients with costly ailments like hearts disease, cancer, and Alzheimer's, and pays up to $250,000 to treat people who need costly medical procedures such as heart transplants. Excluding HIV infected people from coverage ends up costing -- not saving -- taxpayer's money. Under the Pool, treatment costs are offset by substantial premiums and deductibles paid by the insured and augmented by the private insurance industry. Yet without coverage, many HIV patients are forced to quit their jobs and divest themselves of all assets in order to become eligible for Medicaid -- a fully taxpayer supported program in which the state and federal governments share costs. And because Medicaid often does not provide full reimbursement, public hospitals usually absorb the remainder of the costs at a financial loss to taxpayers. Columbia attorneys Michael J. Thompson and Harriet Hancock represent the plaintiff John Doe for the American Civil Liberties Union of South Carolina. Doak Wolfe, also of Columbia, represents the co-plaintiff Palmetto AIDS Life Support Services. Rubenstein and Ruth Harlow of the American Civil Liberties Union AIDS and Civil Liberties Project in New York are co-counsel in the suit. --endit-- ============================================================= ACLU Free Reading Room | A publications and information resource of the gopher:// | American Civil Liberties Union National Office | | "Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty"


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