U.S. Lawmakers Propose Legislation To Encourage States To Provide Medicaid Coverage for Low-Income HIV-Positive People
Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) last week introduced legislation that would offer states financial incentives to provide Medicaid coverage to low-income, HIV-positive individuals before they develop AIDS, the Bend Bugle reports (Bend Bugle, 2/8). The Early Treatment for HIV Act, first introduced in 2003, would provide additional Medicaid funds to states that invest in HIV treatment and allow states with budget deficits to continue to provide medical treatment to HIV-positive, low-income individuals. Under current Medicaid rules, HIV-positive people must wait until they can be categorized as "disabled" before receiving treatment through the program (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/9/03). The bill is similar to the Breast and Cervical Cancer Treatment Act, which provides states the option to classify affected individuals as "categorically needy," and therefore eligible for Medicaid, before their conditions worsen (Bend Bugle, 2/8).
"Today, the unfortunate reality is that most patients must become disabled before they can qualify for Medicaid coverage," Smith said, adding, "Nearly 50% of people living with AIDS who know their status lack ongoing access to treatment. We should do everything possible to ensure that all people living with HIV can get early, effective medical care." ADAP Working Group, a coalition of HIV/AIDS community organizations and research groups, said studies have shown that early preventive care "significantly delays the progression of HIV disease, increases the life expectancy of HIV-positive individuals and is highly cost-effective" (CQ HealthBeat, 2/11). American Academy of HIV Medicine Board Chair John Stansell said, "ETHA would bring Medicaid eligibility rules in line with the clinical standard of care for treating HIV disease." He also noted that ETHA would address the problem of "growing waiting lists for access to lifesaving medications and limited access to comprehensive health care" (AAHIVM release, 2/9). The bill has 28 co-sponsors (CQ HealthBeat, 2/11).