Amendments introduced by council member John Ray (D-At Large) to ease the District's ban on denying insurance to persons who test positive for exposure to the AIDS virus drew criticism from insurance companies and gay rights groups yesterday.
"The proposed amendments will not resolve the problems of the present law because they retain the faulty premise of the law, which is that persons with the AIDS virus must be treated differently, for insurance purposes, than persons with other serious health conditions," said Lawrence Mirel, executive director of the D.C. Insurance Federation, a trade association of insurance companies.
Meanwhile, the proposed change in the law was attacked by gay rights advocates at a public hearing conducted by the council's Consumer and Regulatory Affairs Committee.
"We have been open to a reasonable compromise," said Steve Smith, chairman of the Metropolitan Committee on AIDS issues. "But this is not a compromise . . . . I don't like the possibility that people could be denied insurance coverage at all, especially health insurance, on the basis of a professional prediction about the meaning of a test result that is still fairly subject to dispute."
Under the current law, insurance companies cannot deny insurance coverage to those who test positive for the AIDS virus. Since the law was enacted in August 1986, virtually all insurance companies have stopped issuing individual life and health policies in the District.
The amendments, which were drawn up by Ray after meetings between gay rights activists and insurers, would allow insurance companies to deny life or disability insurance policies of more than $100,000 to persons who test positive for exposure to acquired immune deficiency syndrome.
For life insurance of less than $100,000 and for health insurance, rates could be raised or insurance denied if the D.C. superintendent of insurance approved the action based on experience or "sound actuarial principles."
The current law -- one of the most stringent such measures in the country -- has drawn fire in Congress. This year the Senate approved a measure freezing all spending by the District unless the council rescinds the law. Last week, however, Senate and House conferees dropped the Senate language from the District's fiscal 1988 budget bill.
Last night after the hearings, Ray said both groups still have some problems with his proposal, but he said he is optimistic. "We still have some distance to go. Whether or not we can go that distance and end up in the same place at the same time is dependent upon our evaluating the suggestions."