California Democratic Lawmakers Send Letter to Schwarzenegger Criticizing AIDS Funding Cuts
A group of 22 Democratic U.S. Congress members from California on Tuesday sent a letter to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R), urging him to reconsider proposed funding cuts for HIV/AIDS programs in his $99.1 billion fiscal year 2004-2005 budget, the Oakland Tribune reports (Vesely, Oakland Tribune, 2/18). The budget, which includes a 2% cut in funding for HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment programs, also includes a provision that would cap enrollment for the state's AIDS Drug Assistance Program. ADAPs -- which are funded with both state and federal funds -- provide HIV treatment to low-income, uninsured and underinsured HIV-positive individuals. California's ADAP needs an additional $45 million for FY 2004-2005 to cover increased enrollment, the cost of additional drugs for current enrollees and increased drug prices. However, Schwarzenegger's budget does not include any increased funding; the budget instead would cap enrollment in the program at the current 23,900 enrollees. The move would cause more than 1,400 HIV-positive people in California to go without antiretroviral drugs and would reduce benefits for existing enrollees (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 1/13).
"Individuals who are denied treatment and placed on a waiting list for services will undoubtedly turn to our already strained public health system for care, as they struggle to cope with opportunistic infections that will eventually take their life," the letter said. The lawmakers also criticized Schwarzenegger's plan to reduce reimbursements for Medi-Cal providers by 10% and charge Medi-Cal patients premiums for some services. "We believe that such changes would adversely affect the quality and quantity of services available to many HIV/AIDS patients who are in dire need," the letter said. The lawmakers promised to try to increase federal funding for the ADAP program in FY 2005 to help the state cope with an expected 8,000 to 9,000 new HIV/AIDS patients (Oakland Tribune, 2/18).
Drug Reimbursements Proposed
State Sen. Don Perata (D) on Wednesday introduced a bill (SB 1333) that would allow the state's Department of Health Services to reimburse pharmacies for prescription drugs that they purchase from Canadian pharmacies for Medi-Cal or ADAP beneficiaries, according to a release from AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which sponsored the legislation. "In his State of the State speech on Jan. 6, Gov. Schwarzenneger said, 'We want your ideas, the more radical, the better,' with regard to proposed budget cuts and potential cost savings for the state," AHF President Michael Weinstein said, adding, "We believe SB 1333 is such a cost-saving idea, and we urge other legislators and the governor to quickly join and support Sen. Perata on this landmark California legislation" (AHF release, 2/18).