Texas AIDS Treatment Advocates, Officials Discuss Proposed Changes to ADAP Eligibility Criteria
Approximately 150 people attended a Texas Department of Health public hearing on Thursday to discuss the future of the Texas HIV Medication Program, the state's AIDS Drug Assistance Program, the Austin American-Statesman reports (Roser, Austin American-Statesman, 1/17). Currently, the program allows about 12,500 low-income HIV-positive Texans to buy prescription drugs at a greatly reduced cost. But health department officials expect a $34 million shortfall in the program's budget over the next two-year cycle; the program's annual budget is $58 million. As a result, health department officials have proposed revised eligibility requirements under which people earning more than 140% of the federal poverty level, or $12,400 annually, would no longer be eligible for the program. Current requirements allow beneficiaries who earn up to 200% of the poverty level, or $17,720 annually, to participate in the program. If approved, the new requirements would effectively cut 2,500 people from the program's rolls by August 2005 and keep up to 50 new applicants from qualifying each month. Beneficiaries cut from the program would be given a six-month grace period to find other options (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 1/16).
Delay in Decision Requested
State Rep. Garnet Coleman (D) said that the state Board of Health should delay its decision on the criteria restrictions to give the Legislature time to find funding for the program, according to the Houston Chronicle. The state is facing a $10 billion budget shortfall. Coleman added, "These are very expensive medications. Without them, people die." Gov. Rick Perry (R) said, "I think you're making a doomsday scenario out of information that may or may not be true. I'm sure there will be lots of horror stories that people either come forward with or would like to drive the budget with over the course of the next four-plus months." Wayne Bockmon, medical director for the Houston-based Montrose Clinic, said, "I do not know how to explain to [patients] that their lives cost too much." Health Commissioner Eduardo Sanchez said, "This is very, very hard. It's tough to accept that charge. We're trying to do the best we can do" (Hughes/McInnis, Houston Chronicle, 1/17). The Board of Health is scheduled to meet on Feb. 27 to vote on the issue (Austin American-Statesman, 1/17).