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Court Legalizes Insurance Company Discrimination for HIV

On June 3, 1999, a panel of the 7th U. S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that an insurance company can legally limit HIV-related health care coverage to a fraction of the $1 million cap for other illnesses. The court found that a federal law barring discrimination against people with disabilities does not apply to the content of insurance policies. This decision overturned the ruling made by a federal judge the previous year in the case of two Chicago-area men who are HIV-positive.

One man's policy capped his lifetime benefits for HIV-related conditions at $25,000. The other man's policy had a cap of $100,000. Mutual of Omaha issued the policies, both of which had a cap of $1 million for other medical conditions.

For people with AIDS, the decision "legalizes irrational discrimination by health insurers," said Ann Fisher, executive director of the AIDS Legal Council of Chicago. Jim Nolan, a spokesman for Mutual of Omaha, said that the company was pleased with the verdict.