University of Utah graduate students who take advantage of the school’s health insurance benefit are basically priced out of receiving HIV preventative medication, or PrEP.
The UofU provides health insurance to all students who qualify for graduate tuition benefit. Under this plan, there is no upfront prescription coverage, which means that any prescriptions must be paid out of pocket first, with the opportunity for a 50 percent reimbursement from their insurance provider.
As a result of this policy, students who are in need of access to PrEP must pay $1,800 upfront before submitting for reimbursement, which is only $900 of that cost. On average, graduate students at the UofU take home about $1,400 per month. The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Salt Lake City is now over $1,000 a month. When considering the other costs of living, including food, taxes, transportation, and any other out-of-pocket healthcare expenses, it is clear that paying for PrEP is only feasible for graduate students when crucial sacrifices are made.
The University of Utah Department of Health’s HIV PrEP Clinic cannot offer the graduate students access, since only uninsured people qualify.
PrEP manufacturer Gilead’s program that picks up what an insured person pays out of pocket for the drug over and above what their insurance pays also cannot be used, since students must pay out of pocket for their prescriptions, and charges for PrEP are billed as “uninsured.”
In short, the graduate students at the UofU are unable to get, or afford, the potentially life-saving drug.
A petition was launched that asks administrators at the UofU to pursue one of two actions to address the problem and ensure that graduate students can access this life-saving medication: Regenerate graduate student insurance contracts to include prescription coverage upfront; or allow graduate students insured under the University of Utah health plan to access services and medications from the free PrEP clinic at the school.
The petition was started UofU graduate teaching assistants Devon Cantwell and Rebecca Hardenbrook. For more information on the petition, it can be found at bit.ly/ugradsprep.