CareFirst CEO Recommends Insurer Donate $500K to D.C.-Based HIV/AIDS Clinic To Help Continue ServicesCareFirst BlueCross BlueShield President and CEO William Jews has recommended that the health insurer's Washington, D.C.-based affiliate Group Hospitalization and Medical Services donate $500,000 to the city's Whitman-Walker Clinic to help the clinic continue to provide HIV/AIDS services despite serious financial problems, the Washington Post reports. CareFirst spokesperson Jeffery Valentine said he could not discuss specifics of a possible donation to the clinic until the CareFirst Mission Oversight Committee meets on Wednesday to vote on Jews' recommendation (Levine, Washington Post, 6/10). Whitman-Walker's board at the end of last month approved about $2.5 million in cuts to its annual budget and announced that later this year it will end services permanently in the district's Virginia and Maryland suburbs. The group -- which serves about 7,000 HIV-positive individuals in the district and surrounding areas and has a $29 million budget for 2005 -- in May announced it was facing financial constraints that might force the group to consider program cutbacks (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/9).
Whitman-Walker Interim Executive Director Roberta Geidner-Antoniotti said the donation would be an "incredible gift" that could help the clinic maintain some services, according to the Post. "It's a way for CareFirst to help Whitman-Walker get through this immediate cash crisis," Geidner-Antoniotti said, adding, "It's an extremely generous commitment to the community we serve." Some people have criticized CareFirst for not providing what they believe to be a "fair share" of resources to public health programs in the Washington, D.C., area, according to the Post. The DC Appleseed Center for Law and Justice has been a "particularly pointed" critic of CareFirst, but Appleseed Executive Director Walter Smith reacted to the proposed donation by saying, "Good for them," adding, "That's the kind of thing this company has the wherewithal to do. Their money is so big, they can react quickly to health care problems. There are not a lot of folks in town who can cut a half-million dollar check on the turn of a dime" (Washington Post, 6/10).