Two companies are for the first time jointly offering life insurance to people living with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in recognition that their life expectancies are close to those of uninfected individuals.Previously, HIV-positive individuals would automatically be denied life insurance, said Bill Grant, who co-founded the financial services company AEQUALIS with Andrew Terrell.
The announcement on Tuesday of the insurance plans coincides with World AIDS Day
The plans will be offered through a partnership between Prudential Financial Inc. and AEQUALIS, which focuses on serving people with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. People who qualify will be offered standard plans that are the same as those offered to any other customer.
The policies are “not cheap, but they’re not prohibitively expensive either,” said Terrell, who found HIV-positive people have been unfairly excluded from the life insurance market. “People with HIV (have) much longer life expectancies than insurance companies gave them credit for,” he said.
Long Life with HIV
In 2013, researchers reported that a 20-year-old who is newly diagnosed with HIV and who starts treatment immediately can expect to live another 50 years. Thanks to new therapies that allow for longer survival, more attention is being paid to finding a cure and to treating conditions tied to HIV and aging, said Dr. Michelle Cespedes of Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City.
“There are more and more clinical trials looking at how we can intervene on these comorbidities,” she said, citing cardiovascular disease and forgetfulness as conditions that affect HIV-positive people at younger ages.
The coverage, in the form of convertible 10- or 15-year term-life policies, will be available to people who are HIV-positive but otherwise healthy, according to the Newark, N.J.-based insurer. Convertible-term policies can be converted to permanent policies covering an entire life.
Mike McFarland, vice president of underwriting for Prudential Individual Life Insurance, could not provide exact costs for the new policies Tuesday but said they would likely compare to those offered to HIV-negative people with heart disease, diabetes, or some forms of cancer.
As World AIDS Day was observed Tuesday, more than 1.2 million Americans were living with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 50,000 are diagnosed each year.
Life expectancies for HIV-positive people 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, so treatment requires access and adherence to drugs. And the longer that HIV and AIDS patients live, the more they are at risk for developing such conditions as 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, agents said.
People with HIV and AIDS cannot legally be excluded from the “guaranteed issue” group life-insurance policies offered by some employers, but those policies typically do not pay out more than $50,000. A positive HIV test remains cause for automatic denial of higher-value individual term-life insurance policies that require a medical review, agents said. That’s true even if the applicant’s viral load is undetectable.
“We have not yet seen the terms of the life-insurance product . . . but it seems like a fantastic development,” said Scott Schoettes, HIV Project national director of Lambda Legal, which works to protect the rights of the LGBT community and people with HIV and AIDS.
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.
Oriol Gutierrez, editor-in-chief of POZ magazine, which reports on people with HIV, said it’s not completely clear how the virus affects the aging process. “It does seem generally speaking that our bodies are aging faster and HIV is somewhat involved in that process,” he said.
Health that in addition to physical aging issues, the mental health of long-term survivors needs to be addressed, especially for those who lived through the worst of the epidemic decades ago
“There has been a lot of focus on resurrecting support groups for survivors,” Gutierrez said. Terrell hopes the fact that the plans offered through Prudential and AEQUALIS are the same as plans for anyone else will help fight stigma attached to living with HIV.
“I think that is very important,” he said.
Statistics show that HIV-positive people are indeed living longer; some patients in the U.S. and Canada diagnosed at a young age can now survive into their 70s. While the cure is still unknown, patients have improved access and adherence to drug therapy.
In 2013, research showed that a 20-year-old who is just diagnosed with HIV and who begins therapy right away can expect to live for another 50 years
Dr. Michelle Cespedes of NYC’s Mount Sinai School of Medicine pointed to new therapies for this development, as well as the effective treatment of diseases linked to HIV and aging. “There are more and more clinical trials looking at how we can intervene on these comorbidities,” she said.
For POZ Magazine editor-in-chief Oriol Gutierrez, mental health is also a crucial aspect to address for long-term survival, particularly of those who survived the worst of the HIV epidemic a couple of decades before.
Gutierrez said there is now “a lot of focus on resurrecting support groups for survivors.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that over 1.2 million Americans are living with HIV, the virus that leads to AIDS. About 50,000 new cases of the virus are diagnosed every year.