Arkansas Governor Will Not Use Discretionary Funding To Supplement ADAP Budget
Arkansas Gov. Mick Huckabee (R) has decided against using any of his discretionary funds to help the state's AIDS Drug Assistance Program, which expects a $160,000 budget shortfall between now and March 31, 2005, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports (Smith, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 10/16). ADAPs are federal- and state-funded programs that provide HIV/AIDS-related medications to low-income, uninsured and underinsured HIV-positive individuals. In 2002, Arkansas received $4.4 million in federal ADAP funding to eliminate its waiting list, but the funds ran out, and the state began making cuts. The program in April placed a cap on the number of people it could serve and instituted a waiting list soon after. In addition, the Arkansas Department of Health announced last month that it would drop two medications from ADAP's drug formulary to maintain the program for currently enrolled patients. Eric Camp, an AIDS advocate and member of the committee that recommended the cuts to the health department, had recommended to Huckabee that he use some of the $500,000 in discretionary funding the governor receives annually (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 9/17). However, Chris Pyle -- Huckabee's health and human services policy adviser -- in a letter to Camp dated Oct. 5 said that Huckabee had decided against using the discretionary funding, adding that the governor "does not have access to enough money to substantially benefit the ADAP program."
Huckabee's decision means that the health department must find another source of funding to cover ADAP's budgetary shortfall, the Democrat-Gazette reports. In addition, the health department might remove from the program as many as 32 of the 433 current beneficiaries to maintain its financial solvency, but none of the current beneficiaries is expected to go without medications, according to the Democrat-Gazette. Health department officials have been working with drug companies in an effort to transfer some beneficiaries to pharmaceutical companies' programs, the Democrat-Gazette reports. Health department spokesperson Ann Wright said, "The governor's office felt that we had a plan in place that would let us get through the current year and nobody would have to go without their medications (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 10/16).
"I find it disturbing that (this situation is) acceptable under this governor. I really find that disturbing," Camp said, adding that drug programs funded by pharmaceutical companies require more paperwork, have potential delays in medication shipment and have different eligibility requirements than the ADAP. State Rep. Jay Bradford (D), chair of the House Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee, said that the idea of removing people from the program was a "screwball decision" and that the agency could find the money in its budget to address the shortfall (AP/Memphis Commercial Appeal, 10/17). Bradford also said that people who skip their medications could end up in the hospital, creating expensive medical bills that the state's Medicaid program would have to pay. "Not only from a humanitarian point of view but from the very cold and business point of view, that's a dumb move," Bradford said. Jerry Jones, the health department's infectious diseases service unit leader, said there were "more hoops to jump through" but added that the agency would work to ensure patients have a "seamless transfer" of access to medications under charity programs, according to the Democrat-Gazette. Huckabee was not available for comment, the Democrat-Gazette reports (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 10/16).