HOUSTON VOICE / AUGUST 16, 1996 13
Insurance company didn't tell man about positive test
By ALAN SAYRE medical test used solely to deter- gress to force disclosure of med- pital. In his ruling, Wingate said it
for thf Houston voiof mine insurance eligibility. ical records to a policyholder Deramus had been asked whether would have made no difference
By ALAN SAYRE
FOR THE HOUSTON VOICE
NEW ORLEANS, Saturday, Aug.
3 (AP)—For Jody Deramus, the
shock was finding out that her husband had AIDS. Her anger came from
learning his life insurance company had known he was infected—
and steadfastly refused to tell him.
For 18 crucial months before an
revealed why he was getting sick so
often, the couple tried unsuccessfully to conceive a child,
exposing Mrs. Deramus to
repeated unprotected sex.
Her husband died in 1991. So far,
she says, she has tested negative
for the virus—-"a miracle," as
she puts it.
On Monday, the 5th U.S. Circuit
Court of Appeals will consider
whether Jackson National Life
Insurance Co. had the responsibility to tell Frank Deramus he had
tested positive for the AIDS
Mrs. Deramus, 53, who seeks
unspecified damages, already
has lost before a Mississippi federal judge, who ruled the company
had no duty to disclose results of a
medical test used solely to.determine insurance eligibility.
In court papers, Jackson National
has not said why it withheld the
results—only that it was within its
rights to do so under Mississippi
law. U.S. District Judge Henry T
Wingate of Jackson, Miss.,
agreed last September and dismissed the lawsuit without a trial.
One possible reason for Jackson National's decision—that it
hoped Deramus would let his policy lapse and the company could
then deny reinstatement—is suggested by Mrs. Deramus' appeal,
which says a company memo
instructed Jackson National
employees to do just that.
"According to the judge, insurance companies can do this to anyone they want to, any time they want
to. There's nothing we can do about
it and there's something wrong
with that," Mrs. Deramus said
from Vienna, Va., where she now
D. Collier Graham Jr., an attor-
ney representing Jackson
National, refused to discuss the
Mrs. Deramus has started a foundation aimed at lobbying Con
gress to force disclosure of medical records to a policyholdei
or a person denied coverage.
Currently, 29 states have disclosure laws. Mississippi does not.
In 1988, Deramus, a Jackson
attorney, took a blood test as part
of a routine examination
required before Jackson National
would consider increasing his
coverage from $500,000 to
The results showed he had been
exposed to the virus that causes
AIDS. Although he was denied
additional coverage, in April
1988, for an unspecified medical reason, the company spurned
numerous requests from him and
his doctor for the test results, Mrs.
Shortly after learning the extra
coverage had been denied, Deramus came down with a series of mal-
adies—flu he could not shake,
fatigue, headaches, loss of memory.
With a family history of cancer,
the couple sought medical help,
an 18-month hunt that eventually
involved 26 doctors and, finally, a
move to Virginia to be closer to
Johns Hopkins University Hos
Deramus had been asked whether
he had engaged in AIDS-risky
behavior, and always answered in
the negative, but doctors at Johns
Hopkins added a new question:
Had Deramus been to Africa or been
exposed to anyone from Africa?
A horrible bell tolled: In the mid-
1980s, Deramus had been soaked in
blood while helping an accident
victim who had worked for about
five years in Africa.
Deramus' resulting AIDS tesl, in
Oct. 1989, was positive.
"We would see stories about
AIDS in the newspapers and pass
them by," Mrs. Deramus said.
"They didn't affect us. We didn't
engage in homosexual behavior,
extramarital sex or use drugs.
AIDS didn't affect us. How wrong
When the other doctors found out
about the diagnosis, their
response was universal: "We
didn't fit the profile," Mrs. Deramus said.
Deramus died in June 1991 at age
51, nine days after Jackson
National finally released its test
results to his doctor.
In his ruling, Wingate said it
would have made no difference
even if Jackson Life had informed
Deramus of his condition, since
AIDS remains incurably fatal. But
the appeal contends Deramus
might have gotten life-extending
treatment had he known ofthe test
In addition, finding out that her
husband had the AIDS virus while
they were engaging in unprotected sex created stress-related
problems for Mrs. Deramus that
required psychiatric treatment, the appeal said.
While rejecting Deramus, Mrs.
Deramus was granted life insurance coverage by Jackson
National in a simultaneous
application, even though the
company was aware of her husband's condition, her appeal
"What's galling to me is that I
can't change insurance companies now. If I applied with another
company I'd have to tell them that
I'd been exposed to someone with
AIDS or they could accuse me of
fraud," Mrs. Deramus said.
Rumor: Kemp is Gay
Articles in both the San francisco Independent and LGNY (Lesbian and Gay New
York) reported this week that Jack Kemp is
rumored to be gay. The rumor originally
stemmed from a 1967 New York Time article exposing a "homosexual ring" in
then California Governor Ronald
Reagan's administration. It resurfaced during a 1986 NBC "Today Show"
interview in which he was asked if he had
ever had a homosexual experience.
LGNY reporter Andy Humm explained that
'"when someone being hailed as supposedly tolerant and committed to civil
rights is in reality someone who shuts the
door in the faces of gay people on every
single issue, it becomes relevant if he is
homosexual. It's something he is going
to have to address."
Kemp was quoted in the New York Times on
August 11 as saying, "I believe in civil
liberties for homosexuals. I guess I'd
draw the line at letting them teach in the
your payment options,
and help get your
refund if you're due
money back. But
don't wait... the
IRS is looking hard
at people who aren'i
filing their taxes or
answering IRS ^£k*v
^g^" Do it now...call
w it's in your interest.
Internal Revenue Service
4 PM • 8 PM
OPEN 2 PM