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California May Restrict Use of HIV Status in Life and Disability Underwriting

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California may put new restrictions on the ability of life insurers and disability insurers to use HIV tests in underwriting.

California state Sen. Lena Gonzalez, D-Long Beach, Calif., has introduced a bill, Senate Bill 961, that could forbid insurers from rejecting life and disability applicants solely because they have antibodies to the human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV.


  • A link to the California Senate Bill 961 tracking page is available here.

An insurer could require an applicant to undergo HIV testing, at the insurer’s expense, if the insurer obtained the applicant’s informed consent, and informed the applicant, or the applicant’s physician, of a positive test result.

An insurer could, apparently, use HIV test results along with other information in underwriting.

S.B. 961 would also revamp the list of definitions used in California’s HIV testing statute and eliminate references to specific types of tests, such as the ELISA test and the Western blot assay test.

One provision would appear to prohibit an insurer from sharing the results of applicant HIV tests with other insurers, or with insurance support organizations.

California enacted a law allowing use of HIV testing in life and disability underwriting in 1989, at a time when the treatments available for people with positive HIV test results were limited and the life expectancy of people with HIV was much shorter, according to officials at the California Department of Insurance, who are supporting the bill.

California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara said in a comment about the bill that an individual’s HIV status should not be the only factor considered when an insurer is determining whether the individual can have insurance protection.

“People living with HIV are raising families and seeing their children grow up just like anyone,” Lara said. “This legislation is crucial to ensure they have equal access to the same kinds of insurance that helps us all plan for the future.”

— Read ‘Health for All’ Lara Leads in California Commissioner Race, on ThinkAdvisor.

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