September 27, 2021 The Newspaper Serving LGBT Los Angeles

PReP, The HiV Prevention Pill, Free

Insurers have been advised that they shouldn’t be charging for Truvada and Descovy as HIV prevention and that associated clinic visits and labs must also be free.

In a move that is expected to prove transformative to the national HIV-prevention effort, the federal government has announced that almost all health insurers must cover the HIV prevention pill, known as PrEP, or pre-exposure prophylaxis, with no cost sharing — including for the drug itself and, crucially, for clinic visits and lab tests.

This means the entire experience of maintaining a prescription to Truvada or Descovy, the two approved forms of PrEP, should now be totally free for almost all insured individuals. A prescribing physician, however, must persuade an insurer that Descovy in particular is medically necessary for any specific patient to qualify for zero cost sharing for that drug’s use as HIV prevention. 

The guidance that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, along with the Department of Labor and the Department of the Treasury, sent to health insurers indicated that insurers have 60 days to comply with the mandate. The rule says insurers must not charge copays, coinsurance or deductible payments for the quarterly clinic visits and lab tests required to maintain a PrEP prescription.

Insurers were already required to stop charging out-of-pocket fees for the medication by Jan. 1, 2021, at the latest. 

HIV prevention advocates hailed the new guidance as a game changer in the effort to promote PrEP among individuals at risk of HIV.

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