HC asks why HIV patients being denied health cover

Acting on a public interest litigation, the Delhi high court on Wednesday issued notices to the union government and the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA) asking why HIV+ and AIDS patients were being denied medical cover by health insurance providers.

A division bench of chief justice Dipak Misra and justice Sanjiv Khanna, in a notice to the IRDA, NACO, and the union health ministry, demanded a reply to the petition that asked for a court order to the insurance regulator to direct all the companies to consider people suffering with HIV/AIDS on a par with others.

The court has asked them to file their replies by 27 July.

The PIL by activist Rajeev Sharma claimed that the exclusion clause was in complete violation of the fundamental right to life and liberty of this class of people, who suffered not only illegal discrimination but also financial problems, as a large number of them belonged to economically weaker sections.

According to the petition filed by Dr Sharma, who has been working with HIV-affected patients for some time, ''The insurance sector is one area where HIV+ patients are discriminated against in many existing policies, which include a clause specifically excluding insurance benefits of HIV / AIDS and related treatment. Thus, when an existing policy holder is subsequently diagnosed with HIV / AIDS during the policy period, he or she is denied the benefits of even an existing insurance policy.''

Advocates Tariq Adeeb and Pankaj Sinha, representing Sharma, argued before the court that only one out of the 24 insurance companies listed with the IRDA - Star Health and Allied Insurance Co Ltd - provides insurance to the HIV positive people.