Gephardt, Pelosi Introduce Bill to Expand Medicaid Coverage for Those with HIV
House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.) and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) yesterday reintroduced the Early Treatment for HIV Act (HR 2063), which would expand Medicaid coverage to low-income people with HIV before a diagnosis of AIDS, according to a joint statement. "After years of struggle, we have made significant progress in the fight against HIV/AIDS. However, a substantial hole remains in our safety net for people with HIV. Under current law, low-income HIV-positive individuals must wait until they develop full-blown AIDS before they qualify for Medicaid coverage. Forcing people to wait for AIDS compromises health care until their immune system is indefensible. This law must be changed," the representatives said in the statement (Gephardt/Pelosi statement, 6/5). HCFA has approved 1115 waivers for Maine, Massachusetts and Washington, D.C., to provide coverage for people with HIV (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 3/13). Gephardt and Pelosi previously introduced the act in April 1999 and again in October 2000. Both times, Sen. Robert Toricelli (D-N.J.) sponsored identical legislation in the Senate (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 10/25/00). The combination of new infections and a decline in AIDS-related deaths "means that more people than ever before are living with HIV and AIDS," and as "HIV moves increasingly into low-income, under-served communities, the burden of care will increasingly fall on the federal government," the statement said. The bill, co-sponsored by 100 other Congress members, "will allow people living with HIV to stay healthy and active, and we urge our congressional colleagues and President Bush to join us in this effort," Gephardt and Pelosi concluded (Gephardt/Pelosi release, 6/5).
Advocacy Groups Applaud Bill
The San Francisco AIDS Foundation issued a release yesterday stating it "strongly supports the Early Treatment for HIV Act and applauds its introduction" and "calls upon Congress to swiftly pass the act and on President Bush to sign it into law as soon as possible." Ernest Hopkins, the foundation's director of federal affairs, said, "For people living with HIV, broad access to life-saving medications is essential. The Early Treatment for HIV Act will provide the stable medical care and guaranteed drug access this vulnerable population desperately needs, removing financial barriers they currently face when trying to obtain treatment." Fred Dillon, the foundation's policy director, added, "Expanding care for HIV disease will likely save significant state resources, as early HIV care has been shown to dramatically delay and reduce overall the need for costly hospitalization. This legislation is not only morally right, it is fiscally sound" (San Francisco AIDS Foundation release, 6/5). The AIDS Foundation of Chicago released a statement "calling on all members of Illinois' congressional delegation to lend active support" to the bill. The foundation asked Illinois residents to call both of the state's senators and their local U.S. representative and leave the following message: "Thanks for everything you have done so far in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Because the epidemic is far from over, America must increase, not decrease, efforts against the disease. The Early Treatment for HIV Act is an important tool in the battle, and deserves your active support" (AIDS Foundation of Chicago release, 6/5).