ATLANTA — UPDATE: Publix is no longer denying employee coverage of Truvada PrEP:
"Publix appreciates the concerns shared by our associates and customers. We offer generous health coverage to our eligible full-time and part-time associates at an affordable premium and are committed to the health and well-being of our associates and their families. We regularly evaluate what is covered by our health plan and have made the decision to expand our health plan’s coverage of Truvada to include Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP). We are working with our pharmacy benefits manager to implement this change as quickly as possible."
Rights groups are upset over Publix’s decision to deny a preventative HIV drug coverage to its employees.
Channel 2's Wendy Halloran spoke to a few Publix employees who didn't want to go on camera because they feared they'd lose their jobs, but this issue has been all the buzz in the gay community.
Dr. Scott Parry with Intown Primary Care is one of the top providers of Truvada PrEP. He said it’s highly effective to prevent getting HIV. He said he deeply disagrees with the company's decision not to cover the drug as part of its insurance plan for its employees.
“It’s wrong, the thing about PrEP, it’s proven time and time again that it does prevent the transmission of HIV,” Parry said. “If I had my druthers, everyone should be on PrEP, if everyone took PrEP there would be no more HIV. It’s that potent, that strong.”
Parry has heard from his patients and they are not happy with the company’s decision.
“If you’re taking Truvada PrEP, you’re a homosexual,” said Parry.
Parry said the move could be a discriminatory practice.
“It is not a stretch of the imagination to think that this could actually be a discriminatory practice that targets members of the LBGT community for their sexuality,” Jeff Graham with Georgia Equality.
There are concerns this could be in line with other controversial businesses who have taken a hard-line stance against the gay community.
“If it’s true, and there’s discrimination, and there’s discrimination especially in this modern era, you’ve got Kroger, lots of other grocery stores to go to, pharmacies to go to, so why am I going to support Publix if they’re discriminating against gay people?" Parry said.
Halloran received the following statement from Publix.
"Publix offers very generous health coverage to our eligible full-time and part-time associates and their family members at an affordable premium. The plan’s definition of medical necessity applies to all covered benefits. Under this definition, coverage is provided for the identification, treatment or management of a medical condition. Coverage is not generally provided to diagnose a medical condition for which a member has no indications or to treat a medical condition that a member might get in the future. The plan does provide coverage for preventive care benefits such as annual physicals, age-appropriate health screenings and vaccines. Currently, our plan covers Truvada for members who are being treated for active HIV infections or who have been recently exposed to HIV. In cases where Truvada is being used prophylactically, the plan’s definition of medical necessity was not met. As the largest employee-owned company in the country, Publix has long been recognized as an organization dedicated to our associates. We appreciate hearing from our customers and associates and will re-evaluate coverage for Truvada as a preventive benefit."
The statement was a glimmer of hope for Graham.
“I would hope that they’re feeling a little bit of heat with this,” Graham said.
Publix has given no timetable as to how long it will take to re-evaluate their position.
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