The HIV Medicine Association (HIVMA) has waded into the health care reform debate, calling for a public insurance option. HIVMA argues this will be critical to reach uninsured people living with HIV.

One of the most contentious issues in the ongoing health care reform debate is whether the government should create a government-subsidized health insurance option to compete against private insurers. Supporters argue that a public plan would simultaneously bring down the cost of health care for all, while helping to ensure that more people currently without insurance would be covered. Critics have argued that a government plan would be inefficient, and that it has the potential to limit choices and gain an unfair advantage over private insurers.

The HIVMA, a partner organization to the Infectious Disease Society of America, has issued a news release affirming their support for a public option on behalf of people living with HIV. The group points out that only 17 percent of people with HIV have private insurance, 54 percent depend on government insurance and 29 percent are completely uninsured.

“HIV treatment is one of the most effective medical interventions available today, but it requires ongoing access to high-cost medications and services over the course of a patient’s lifetime,” said Michael S. Saag, MD, HIVMA chair-elect. “People with chronic conditions like HIV are not attractive to most private insurers.”

HIVMA explains that private insurers will likely discourage HIV patients from enrolling in their plans by excluding HIV-treating clinicians and programs from their provider networks. The group also points out that a public option would offer people greater security than private plans, which frequently merge, change business models and alter costs and coverage at will.

“The availability of a public plan option will ensure a reliable coverage option is available to people with HIV no matter where they live in the U.S.,” said Arlene Bardeguez, MD, MPH, current HIVMA chair. “A public plan option will better ensure all of our patients have the opportunity to benefit from HIV treatment and live healthy and productive lives.”