Thursday, July 28, 2016

Discriminatory Design: HIV Treatment in the Marketplace

By: Sean Dickson, Senior Manager, Health Systems Integration, National Alliance of State & Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD)

The National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD published a groundbreaking report on the treatment of HIV medications by Affordable Care Act insurance plans available on the Federally-facilitated marketplaces. This report – Discriminatory Design: HIV Treatment in the Marketplace – reveals pervasive deficiencies in marketplace plans’ coverage and pricing of HIV medications.

Discriminatory Design: HIV Treatment in the Marketplace
States and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) are currently reviewing plan designs for 2017, and this report will help guide their review to reduce discriminatory plan design for persons living with HIV. The report highlights the direct relationship between drug prices and insurer restrictions, underscoring the need for comprehensive drug pricing reform in addition to monitoring and enforcement of non-discrimination protections.

Key findings include:
  • 20% of plans only cover one single-tablet regimen, Atripla, the oldest and least-recommended regimen
  • One-third of plans place all covered single-tablet regimens on the specialty tier
  • Over 45% of Bronze plans subject all covered single-tablet regimens to co-insurance
  • 15% of plans do not cover any HIV drugs introduced since 2013
  • 34% of plans place Truvada, which can prevent HIV infection as Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), on the specialty tier
  • 29% of plans require patients to “fail-first” on another HIV drug before taking Stribild, a leading single-tablet regimen
  • Cost-Sharing Reduction plans, intended to help low-income individuals access affordable insurance, have the same high levels of co-insurance as Silver plans
  • Increases in drug list prices lead to increased frequency of co-insurance at statistically significant levels
The full report can be downloaded online at

Please contact Sean Dickson with any questions at


Disclaimer: Guest blogs do not necessarily reflect the views of the ADAP Advocacy Association, but rather they provide a neutral platform whereby the author serves to promote open, honest discussion about public health-related issues and updates.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Finding the right doctor can be challenging—this new service can help

By: Carine Carmy, Head of Marketing, Amino

When you need to find a doctor, how do you find the right one? If you have health insurance, you might start with your insurance plan, and check which doctors are in-network. You might look at online resources, and Google which doctors are located nearby. You might look at Yelp or other review sites to see what people say about the doctors (and if you’re lucky, those reviews might be relevant to your condition or to the procedure you need). If you have a friend or family member with your condition, or know someone with a medical background, you might be able to ask one of them for a recommendation.

Even if you went through all that to find a doctor, would you feel confident that you made the right choice? With all the resources available for health care decision-making, you might still be missing a crucial piece of information: how much experience does this doctor have with what you need?

Research shows that when it comes to doctors, experience matters—not necessarily years of experience practicing medicine, but rather the volume of patients a doctor has treated with your condition. That’s the philosophy behind Amino, a free website that launched in October 2015, which lets you find and book doctors and estimate health care costs for medical procedures. With Amino, you can get matched with a doctor based on his or her experience with the condition you have or the treatment you need. Amino measures a doctor’s experience by analyzing data from health insurance claims (the records doctors send to insurance companies to get paid for what they do) to uncover what they focus on and how they treat their patients.

Below, you can use the embeddable Amino search to see how the product works and find doctors who have experience with HIV-related care and treatment—you can also change any of the search filters to look up other conditions or procedures (Amino has over 800 topics to choose from).

Here are five quick guidelines for using Amino:

1. If you’re looking for doctors who have experience with HIV-related care and treatment, you would first enter in some information about yourself or the patient you’re taking care of.

Screenshot showing a location finder.
Photo Source: Amino

2. Then, enter your location and insurance (if you have it—it’s optional to enter in your insurance).

Screenshot showing a physician/provider locator.
Photo Source: Amino

3. You’ll get a list of doctors who have the most experience with testing people like you—of the same age and sex, and with the same insurance—for HIV-infection. Amino will search its database of 893,000 doctors to provide this list. You might see a variety of doctors in your match list, and depending on your preferences you can filter by a doctor's specialty.

Screenshot showing GPS map with physician/providers nearby.
Photo Source: Amino

4. When you click on the doctor’s profile, you can see what they treat patients for and which services, tests, and procedures they provide, along with other important information like their credentials.

Screenshot showing search results.
Photo Source: Amino

5. From there, you can book an appointment via email or text message at no cost to you.

Amino also offers cost estimates for 49 medical services and procedures for dermatology, diagnostics, men’s health, orthopedics, preventative care, surgeries, and women’s health—and you can view those cost estimates for individual doctors as well as research costs in your area and insurance network.

Health care is not one-size-fits-all—what’s right for you can change depending on your health and your preferences. Your search for a doctor should be customized to your condition or the procedure you need, and you should be able to see as much information about a doctor as possible before making the time commitment to see them in-person.

Using Amino, you get a data-driven and personalized experience, which can help you choose care with confidence. If you have any feedback or questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to the team at


Disclaimer: Guest blogs do not necessarily reflect the views of the ADAP Advocacy Association, but rather they provide a neutral platform whereby the author serves to promote open, honest discussion about public health-related issues and updates.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Combatting the Dual Epidemic of Substance Use and HIV-Infection

By: Brandon M. Macsata, CEO, ADAP Advocacy Association

Since the earliest days of the AIDS epidemic, there has been a significant link between substance use, abuse, and dependence and HIV-infection. Aside from injection drug use ("IDU") -- which can cause direct exposure to the virus -- substance use, abuse, and dependance "can affect people’s overall health and make them more susceptible to HIV infection and, in those already infected with HIV, substance use can hasten disease progression and negatively affect adherence to treatment."[1]

Man resting his head on the table, with an alcoholic drink near his hand
Photo Source: We Do Recover
According to the CDC, some of the populations most vulnerable populations include people who live in disadvantaged neighborhoods, gay, bisexual and transgender men, people with mental illness, and people who have experienced sexual, physical, or emotional abuse. Among some of the most common substances used are alcohol, crack cocaine, heroin, Methamphetamine ("Meth"), and poppers.[2]

Unfortunately, many prevention strategies -- otherwise known has Harm Reduction -- often fall victim to the political kickball because many right wing conservatives view them as condoning drug use. Also, often the scarcity of available funding in public health can push these programs to the back burner. The lack of prevention dollars has long plagued the fight against the AIDS epidemic, and it is one that continues today (though some progress has been achieved over the last decade in this area).

To that end, earlier this month the National Alliance of State & Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD) released a Fact Sheet on ADAP Formulary Coverage of Substance Use Treatment. The fact sheet demonstrates how AIDS Drug Assistance Programs (ADAPs) cover substance use treatment medications, related client services, as well as drug-specific information for medications.[3]

It includes the following sections:

  • Substance Use Treatment Needs among PLWH
  • Use of Ryan White Part B and ADAP Funds to Expand Access to Substance Use Treatment
  • Substance Use Treatment Medications: Drug-Specific Information
NASTAD summarized the important role played by ADAPs: "When used in combination with behavioral therapy, substance use treatment medications allow individuals to manage addiction or dependency by reducing their risk for overdose, cravings, and/or symptoms of withdrawal.  For PLWH who use substances, these treatments bolster multiple “bars” within the HIV care continuum, including adherence to ARV treatment and viral load suppression."[4] 

There is no one-size-fits-all to the prevention and treatment of substance use, abuse, and dependence. One thing is certain though, there isn't enough being done in this area. Resources and tools -- such as the one made available by NASTAD -- are important to community leaders trying to tackle the dual epidemic of substance use and HIV-infection.


[1] U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), "HIV and Substance Use in the Unite," March 2013; available online at
[2] U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), "HIV and Substance Use in the Unite," March 2013; available online at
[3] National Alliance of State & Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD), "ADAP Formulary Coverage of Substance Use Treatment," July 5, 2016; available online at
[4] Bowes, Amanda, National Alliance of State & Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD), "AIDS DRUG ASSISTANCE PROGRAMS’ (ADAPS) SUPPORT OF SUBSTANCE USE TREATMENT FOR THE CLIENTS THEY SERVE," July 5, 2016; available online at

Friday, July 8, 2016

Access to HIV/AIDS Medicines in Exchange Plans

By: Brandon M. Macsata, CEO, ADAP Advocacy Association

The ADAP Advocacy Association earlier this week announced the framework for its 9th Annual Conference, which includes seven (7) town-hall style panel discussions about various issues impacting access to care and treatment for people living with HIV/AIDS. Among them, a discussion on the access to HIV/AIDS medicines (and other services) in exchange plans.

The panel on the "Affordable Care Act: Marketplace Cost Sharing & Barriers to Healthcare" will be moderated by Scott Evertz, former Director for the Office of National AIDS Policy, and current board member for the Community Access National Network (CANN). It is an opportunity to dig deeper into the ongoing discriminatory practice by insurance companies, requiring inordinately high co-payments and co-insurance for medications used in the treatment of HIV and AIDS.

This ongoing issue has routinely been covered by the ADAP Blog, because it is one of the most commonly expressed concerns by the patient community. View previous blogs on the topic here, here, and here, as well as here.

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America® (PhRMA) recently released several new fact sheets, which provide an in-depth, state-by-state look at coverage and access in the 2016 exchange plans. In a statement released by PhRMA, they are summarized as follows: "From deductibles and cost sharing to prescription drug coverage and formulary data, each fact sheet lays out the specifics for a given state compared to the national average, according to research analyzing 2016 silver health insurance exchange plans. Based on the data and information gathered, the fact sheets also include suggestions for improving exchange coverage in each state."

The fact sheets are available online at

Access to HIV/AIDS Medicines in Exchange Plans
Photo Source:

Of particular interest to our readers is the fact sheet on HIV/AIDS medications, outlined in the Formulary Access for Patients with HIV/AIDS. A troublesome finding is approximately 10% of the plans use high tier placement or coinsurance for all single source HIV medicines.[1]

An excellent patient-centric resource available at is the "In Your State" tool. It allows patients to learn more about the marketplace plans in each state, including important fact sheets.

For example, in Alabama the following actions are recommended:[2]

  • Enforcing non-discrimination requirements, which apply to benefit design and provider networks; 
  • Establishing stronger rules regarding exceptions and appeals processes, which help enrollees get the medicines and care their doctors recommend; and  
  • Enhancing the state's marketplace website or advocating for a page that allows for easier plan comparisons, including searchable formularies and estimates of total out-of-pocket costs.

To utilize this tool, CLICK HERE.

The rising share of patient cost-sharing is widely viewed as the next frontier in the healthcare reform battle. It is one that disproportionately impacts people living with chronic conditions, such as HIV/AIDS.

[1] Avalere, "Formulary Access for Patients with HIV/AIDS," page 9, 2016.
[2], "In Your State: Alabama," 2016; available online at