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11.17.2016 A multi-state campaign to fight discrimination by insurance companies against people with certain health conditions aims to fight a range of tactics being used by insurers to avoid providing patients with the health care and treatment they need. The Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation at Harvard Law School and patient advocacy partners such as Nashville CARES and the AIDS Foundation of Chicago have filed complaints against health insurance companies like Blue Cross, Humana and Cigna with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights, which is supposed to enforce the Affordable Care Act’s anti-discrimination regulations in state health insurance Marketplaces. Robert Greenwald, CHLPI’s faculty director and clinical professor of law at Harvard Law School, said the goal is to “shine a light on discrimination occurring under the cloak of supposedly neutral insurance plan benefit design.” (Read more: “Landmark campaign could enforce health care rights for people with chronic conditions in seven states.”) Meanwhile, as insurance carriers pay for less and less, advocacy is more important than ever before. In an article in Slate this week, Allison Bond, resident physician in internal medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, wrote that, in the wake of the election, “doctors need to recommit to patient advocacy no matter what our politics are.” What are the ways these insurance companies are working against the needs of patients? Following are five of the most blatant methods currently being used by insurance companies all over the country. 1. Step therapy (or “fail first” requirements) here or here. 2. Bans on (or rejection of) payments from charitable premium assistance programs Star Tribune. You can read more about this issue here and here. 3. Bans or rejection of payments from charitable co-pay assistance programs Blue Cross of Idaho made him wait weeks – and forced him to file official complaints – in order to get the medications he needs to stay alive and make the transplant worthwhile. 4. Drug price tiers recent national study took note of “adverse tiering,” a practice where insurers put different types of drugs in different tiers, with each tier requiring patients to foot a different portion of the bill. The practice can put “substantial and potentially unexpected strain on people with chronic conditions,” the study found. Enrollees on plans with adverse tiering had an average annual cost per drug of $4,892, compared to $1,615 for enrollees in other types of plans. Researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health said that “insurers may be using benefit design to dissuade sicker people from choosing their plans. A recent analysis of insurance coverage for several other high-cost chronic conditions such as mental illness, cancer, diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis showed similar evidence of adverse tiering.” 5. Limited networks clicking here. So much for the end of pre-existing conditions and new protections for patients in the health insurance arena. With all of these issues harming patients, what can you do to help? Please add your name to the cause and take a stand against discrimination. We’ll keep you updated on ways you can help at the right time. Join the Chronic Disease Coalition by clicking here.