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Hepatitis B Foundation launches new tool to assist people living with hepatitis B in making decisions on health insurance

The Foundation says the new report also should help policymakers and patients address discrimination in the health insurance marketplace.

Doylestown, Pa., Oct. 29, 2020 – The Hepatitis B Foundation today released a new report, Health Insurance Costs Impacting Shoppers Living with Hepatitis B, that is designed to help those living with chronic hepatitis B and their caregivers make better-informed decisions when choosing health insurance plans.

The online report summarizes an analysis of over 280 plans in 14 states sold on the health insurance marketplace in 2019 and 2020, identifying trends and practices that may significantly increase a person’s out-of-pocket costs for hepatitis B treatment.

“The high cost of hepatitis B treatments is a significant barrier to care,” Kate Moraras, MPH, the Foundation’s deputy director, public health, said. “Hepatitis B medications must be taken daily for several years and, without affordable options, people living with chronic hepatitis B may stop taking their medications, which increases their risk of developing cirrhosis or liver cancer.”

Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, often called the ACA or Obamacare, health insurance plans are prohibited from including benefit designs that discriminate against individuals based upon their age, disability, gender, health conditions and numerous other factors. Unfortunately, health insurance companies have used tactics that force people living with chronic hepatitis B to pay for the majority of their treatment costs. Companies also have taken steps to discourage hepatitis B patients from enrolling in their plans.

“Bringing attention to these discriminatory practices is the first step toward holding the insurance companies accountable,” Michaela Jackson, the Foundation’s prevention policy manager, said. “Many people who are impacted by this issue already face barriers to accessing healthcare services and may not even know that they are facing discrimination in this manner.”

The new report provides health insurance shoppers living with hepatitis B with key information – including a checklist of questions to consider and a list of insurance companies in the analyzed states that exhibited discriminatory practices. Shoppers can take a closer look at the specific pricing tiers into which companies and plans place their hepatitis B treatments, and what additional costs may be included.

Along with serving as a resource for consumers, the report aims to bring awareness to policymakers. Because health insurance plans are regulated by states, it is important for legislators and state health insurance departments to be aware of any discrimination that may occur. The Foundation plans to share Health Insurance Costs Impacting Shoppers Living with Hepatitis B with policymakers and other hepatitis B advocates to encourage local change. 

The Hepatitis B Foundation encourages any person who believes that she or he is facing discrimination within their health insurance plan to file an official complaint with their state’s Bureau of Insurance and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Civil Rights. Here is a directory of insurance companies provided by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners that includes the information necessary to file a complaint.

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