HIV/AIDS Advocates Criticize Medicaid Changes in Compromise Fiscal Year 2006 Spending-Cut Bill
Some HIV/AIDS advocates and HIV-positive individuals on Tuesday criticized provisions in a compromise fiscal year 2006 spending package (S 1932) that would make $39.7 billion in cuts to programs such as Medicaid, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports (Mondics, Philadelphia Inquirer, 12/21). The House on Monday voted 212-206 to approve the cuts, including about $4.8 billion in net savings from Medicaid over five years. Under the bill, states would be able to charge premiums and higher copayments for such Medicaid benefits as prescription drugs, physician services and hospital care. States would be allowed to end Medicaid coverage for beneficiaries who do not pay premiums for 60 days or more and deny services to beneficiaries who do not make copayments to pharmacists, doctors or hospitals (Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, 12/20). HIV/AIDS advocates criticized the measure, saying an increase in copayments and premiums could cause some patients who cannot afford the costs to stop treatment. David Gartner, policy director with the Washington, D.C.-based Global AIDS Alliance, said a 2003 initiative in Oregon to increase fees and Medicaid copayments led to half of the affected beneficiaries dropping out of the program. Gartner said, "The cuts to the Medicaid program would be devastating to all people on Medicaid." Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), who on Tuesday announced his support for the bill, called House-Senate compromise negotiations "very tough" but said the cuts in the current bill would be less detrimental to programs than cuts in earlier versions of the package. He added, "It was a question of trade-offs on so many items" (Philadelphia Inquirer, 12/21). The Senate is expected to vote on the bill on Wednesday (Carey, CQ HealthBeat, 12/20).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.