A life-changing drug that can reduce the risk of getting HIV by as much as 99% is now completely free for insured Americans.
While PrEP has been free for several months, people were still being charged out-of-pocket fees for bloodwork and other costs.
So in July, the federal government told health insurers they had just weeks to cancel cost sharing of any kind.
Now that the deadline has passed, anyone with health insurance no longer has to pay extra for protection. Unfortunately, health insurance itself is still far from free, but you may have a few options to reduce your premiums.
Health insurers hustle to cover costs
On July 19, the federal government told health insurers they had just 60 days to start covering all costs of receiving either of the approved HIV-prevention pills — namely, Truvada and Descovy.
That’s everything from the initial doctor’s visit to all follow-up bloodwork and medical appointments.
Insurance providers had already been required to stop charging out-of-pocket fees for the medication by Jan. 1.
Between 2015 and 2019, as the use of PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) became more widespread, the U.S. saw an 8% drop in the annual rate of HIV transmissions, the CDC says.
But the uptake hasn’t been as fast as it could be. The CDC once estimated that 1.1 million Americans could benefit from the drug; it reported in May that some 285,000 people are actually using it.
Access may get harder for the uninsured
The change is great news for those with health insurance coverage who may have held off on getting a prescription because of the additional costs.
At the same time, accessing PrEP may soon become much more difficult for people without insurance.
Gilead, the manufacturer of both Truvada and Descovy, is planning policy changes next year that are expected to drain funding from frontline clinics serving low-income communities.
“It’s going to put a lot of our programs in serious harm’s way at best,” Jim Pickett, senior director of prevention advocacy and gay men’s health at AIDS Foundation Chicago, told NBC. “Some of them will be decimated and destroyed.”
Other treatments covered free of charge
The new requirements for health insurers come courtesy of an “A” rating for PrEP by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.
Under the Affordable Care Act, any preventative service granted an A or B rating by the task force must be totally covered by almost all insurers for the good of the country.
Other procedures free of charge for people with a health insurance plan include:
Screening for depression, diabetes, cholesterol, obesity, various cancers, HIV and sexually transmitted infections.
Counseling and medication to help people off drugs and tobacco and embrace healthy eating.
If you need help covering medical costs
If the money you save on PrEP is being swallowed up by the high cost of health insurance, you may have a few solutions available to you.
In addition to choosing a higher deductible or higher copays, your most powerful tool with marketplace plans is simply shopping around. The Insurance Information Institute recommends comparing at least three quotes to ensure you don’t end up overpaying.
That’s easy enough to do using a quote comparison site. All you’ll have to do is answer a few questions and then review your options.
You can use the same approach to slash your other insurance premiums. Switching to a different auto insurance policy could reduce your costs by up to $1,000 a year. And you could trim a similar amount from your homeowners insurance bill, as well.
Finally, if you can afford it and you have dependents who rely on your income, consider pouring any excess savings into an affordable life insurance policy. It's much better to take out a policy while you're younger and healthier, as you're less likely to be denied coverage and more likely to lock in a low rate.
This article provides information only and should not be construed as advice. It is provided without warranty of any kind.