Florida Insurance Companies Revise HIV/AIDS Drug Formularies

John McDonald

Reduced costs for HIV medications are on the way.

Florida Insurance Commissioner Kevin M. McCarty announced that effective June 1, 2015, health insurance companies Aetna, Inc. and Coventry Health Care of Florida, Inc. are revising their HIV/AIDS drug formularies for individual health plan members. This change is expected to significantly lower the cost of HIV drugs, said Michael Kahane, spokesman for the AIDS Healthcare Foundation Southern Bureau.

“It is great to see that the positive results of months of dialogue and advocacy among key stakeholders throughout the U.S. have yielded such positive results with an impact that could ultimately be far more significant if adopted throughout the industry,” Kahane said in a statement released by AHF.

Under the new formularies, members of the two health care companies will be able to purchase oral HIV medications as generic or non-preferred brands. A majority of HIV drugs currently labeled as “specialty” are expected to drop into this lower cost tier, Florida insurance officials said.

Additionally, starting in June, Aetna is expected to expand access to HIV medications nationwide, sources at the company said.

“Aetna and Coventry’s actions represent a high level of commitment and responsiveness to the needs of its members,” stated McCarty.

Labor Protections for LGBT Workers in Place

John McDonald

In its first expansion of legal protections for workers since 1974, the U.S. federal government can no longer discriminate against employees or contractors based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

These new protections, announced Wednesday by Secretary of Labor Secretary Tom Perez, include people who are LGBT.

“This is a civil rights victory consistent with our founding principles,” Perez said. “It will mean a more dynamic and inclusive workforce that captures the talents of more of our people. It advances the principle that we should be leaving no one of the sidelines, that America is strongest when it fields a full team.”

The protections are the result of President Barack Obama’s executive order prohibiting federal contractors and subcontractors from discriminating against workers based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Obama issued the order July 21, 2014.

Springfield Gay Rights Supporters Hopeful after Ordinance Repealed, Consider Next Steps

Associated Press

SPRINGFIELD, Missouri — Gay rights advocates in Springfield are considering their next steps after the repeal of an anti-discrimination ordinance that provided protection in jobs, housing and public accommodations.

The Springfield News-Leader reports that will continue working to pass statewide nondiscrimination protections. Unofficial returns from Tuesday's election show the ordinance was repealed by a 51.4 percent to 48.6 percent margin.

"We have seen powerful growth in Springfield through this campaign, and we are so proud of this community, regardless of the outcome of Tuesday's vote," said Stephanie Perkins, deputy director of PROMO, a statewide gay rights advocacy group.

The Springfield City Council last October added LGBT residents to the city's anti-discrimination ordinance. Opponents collected signatures resulting in the ordinance going to a public vote.

The statewide Missouri Nondiscrimination Act will be heard by the House Criminal Proceedings Committee next week.

"Just as we saw in Springfield, there is support from both Democrats and Republics from many areas and backgrounds," Perkins said.

An event called #AllSpringfieldians: LGBT Support Demonstration organized through Facebook has been scheduled for Friday. More than 1,000 people have indicated on Facebook that they will attend the demonstration.

An online fundraising project, organized by Megan Needham, is also being held to collect $170 to buy 250 "window clings" that say "This Business Is Inclusive." As of Tuesday night, about $715 had been raised.

Needham plans to donate the additional funds to GLO center, which is a local nonprofit that provides resources to the LGBT community in southwest Missouri.