The Union Health and Family Welfare Ministry has asked the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA), the national insurance regulator, to remove, from its draft circular, provisions that exclude people living with HIV (PLHIV) from purchasing health insurance products.

The Department of AIDS Control (DAC), formerly the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO), has said, in a letter to the IRDA, that the draft circular’s standard underwriting guidelines for life insurance products perpetuated the exclusion of PLHIV from current and new products, as well as the standard waiting period for PLHIV.

The IRDA circular, issued about a month ago, asks all insurers to provide life-insurance cover to HIV/AIDS patients. “It is not an either-or-situation for HIV/AIDS patients. They should be able to buy both life and health insurance if their CD4 count [a measure of sickness] is above a particular cut-off. HIV/AIDS should be treated [as] any other chronic diseases like cancer or diabetes,” DAC additional secretary Aradhana Johri told reporters here on Tuesday.

Even as she expressed appreciation for the IRDA’s efforts in bringing PLHIV under the ambit of insurance cover, Ms. Johri said the efforts fell short of expectation and needs. There were, she said, approximately 21 lakh people living with HIV in the country who are denied health and life insurance for other diseases if they test HIV-positive.

The insurance products of both group and individual type should also be available for widows and children and they should be able to purchase it without getting excluded. Since widows and children are more vulnerable, special efforts should be made so that they are not excluded, the DAC has written to the IRDA.

According to Ms. Johri, the DAC had set up a technical working group to work out the means of including PLHIV under insurance products. The technical working group had recommended that there should be at least one health insurance product offered by each insurance company where HIV/AIDS is removed from the exclusions. PLHIV shall not be excluded from the group health insurance plans, which are generally offered by insurance companies to employers and must be included in the government-funded mass health insurance schemes targeted at the poor and other vulnerable sections of society.

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