Senate Passes Amendment to Budget Reconciliation Act Based on Early Treatment for HIV Act
The Senate last week during debate on its fiscal year 2006 budget reconciliation bill (S 1932) passed an amendment that would provide $450 million to states that provide Medicaid coverage for antiretroviral treatment for low-income, HIV-positive individuals before they develop AIDS, Bend.com reports. The amendment, sponsored by Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.), is similar to the Early Treatment for HIV Act, which Smith and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) introduced in February (Bend.com, 11/3). ETHA, 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. 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 (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 2/14). A study conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers found that early treatment could significantly delay HIV disease progression and that ETHA could reduce the death rate for HIV-positive people by 60%, according to Bend.com. "The tragedy of HIV affects the lives of millions of people across the nation," Smith said, adding, "Some get the care they need, but too many do not. This is literally a life-and-death issue, and early treatment can help many more Americans live longer, healthier lives" (Bend.com, 11/3).
Congressional Quarterly reporter Kate Schuler addresses the amendment and other Senate action on its package of spending cuts, which included numerous reductions in Medicaid and Medicare funding, in this week's "Health on the Hill from kaisernetwork.org and CQ."