Post submitted by Elisabeth Rutledge, HRC state legislative team consultant
On Tuesday, April 9, the Texas House Committee on Insurance held a hearing on HB 3058, a bill authored by Rep. Julie Johnson to eliminate a requirement for prior authorization of prescription medicines that treat HIV & AIDS. This bill would remove bureaucratic barriers between people living with HIV and access to the lifesaving medicines they need.
“Requiring prior authorization in treatment drugs for HIV & AIDS is a serious barrier to timely treatment for patents and is an adversary of Texas public health overall,” Rep. Johnson said in introducing the bill. “Eighty-five percent of physicians across the U.S. report that the prior authorization requirement is an interference in their continuity of care.”
For people living with HIV, timely treatment upon diagnosis and continuity of care are crucial because any delay accessing treatment -- even a short delay -- can trigger viral resistance. Once viral resistance occurs, the medication is rendered ineffective and the entire class of medications may no longer be an effective treatment option.
When health plan providers require prior authorization for these medicines, they not only put patients at risk but also dramatically increase public health risks and the overall cost of medical treatment.
While prior authorization requirements are designed to limit costs, in the case of HIV & AIDS, the cost of these medications is miniscule compared to the inability to access treatment. Patients living with HIV who are not on these treatments are able to transmit HIV more easily, which impacts not only the patient themselves but also public health.
“HRC is proud to support Rep. Johnson, a powerful advocate who is working tirelessly on behalf of her constituents, the LGBTQ community and all Texans,” HRC National Field Director Marty Rouse said. “This bill shows what a difference it can make to elect people like Rep. Johnson who understand and will address the challenges faced by LGBTQ Texans.”
Johnson worked with Dr. John Carlo, CEO of Prism Health North Texas, to craft this legislation with the goal of increasing access to these medicines and ultimately saving lives. Prism Health North Texas runs three non-profit health centers specializing in HIV treatment and prevention in North Texas.
Johnson, an HRC-endorsed candidate, won her first election to the House in November 2018 after defeating a far-right incumbent. She is a founding member of the Texas legislature’s first-ever LGBTQ legislative caucus.
The bill was left pending in committee, with a vote expected in the coming weeks.
To learn more about how to get involved with HRC in the Lone Star State, visit hrc.org/Volunteer.