Back to Stories

UnitedHealth Apologizes After Truvada Letter

An insurer is changing a company policy regarding Truvada, an HIV medication, after pushback from activists, NBC reports.

UnitedHealth recently came under fire after a denial letter for the medication was circulated online.  In the rejection letter, the insurer cited the patient’s “high risk homosexual behavior” as its reason for the denial.

The letter came after a New York patient, Thomas Ciganko, requested a prior authorization for the medication.  The letter that returned shocked the Ciganko:

“The information sent in shows you are using this medicine for High risk homosexual behavior,” the letter, dated July 11, 2017, read. In the same paragraph, however, the letter listed an approved reason for taking the medication “to reduce the risk of sexually acquired HIV-1 infection in adults at high risk.”

 Ciganko said the letter made him extremely angry.

“I felt like they were saying, ‘You people are different, and your behavior is not within our moral code,’” he told NBC News.

Ciganko shared the letter with HIV advocacy groups, where it was shared online and gained more attention.

HIV advocates believe Ciganko is one of many, who has been effected by UnitedHealth’s decision.

“This is literally one of the largest health insurers in the country denying the most effective method of HIV prevention to a patient apparently because of his sexual orientation,” he said. “When this patient gets denied, he is being put at risk for becoming infected with HIV.”

Since the denial, UnitedHealth has apologized and said it is changing the policy for the medication.

“We apologize for the insensitive language appearing in the letter and regret any difficulty it caused. We have corrected our letters, removed the prior authorization requirement for Truvada and members can fill their prescription at the network pharmacy of their choice,” a spokesperson for the company wrote in an email to NBC News Friday night.

 Ciganko is happy if his letter, and the attention it got, pushed UnitedHealth towards correcting their previous policy.

Ciganko said he’s “pleased they’re doing the right thing” and said the new policy — particularly the removal of the prior authorization requirement — will be “incredibly more convenient.”

 “I’m very happy if releasing this letter has played any part in bringing forward positive change,” he added. “I’d do it in a heartbeat again.”


Back to Stories