South Carolina Medicaid Cuts $61 Million in Services, Ends Enrollment in HIV/AIDS Program
South Carolina's Medicaid agency will stop enrolling people living with HIV as part of a $61 million round of budget cuts, officials announced on Wednesday, the AP/Charlotte Observer reports. According to the AP/Observer, no longer enrolling HIV-positive people will save the agency $40,000. Some health care advocates argue the budget cuts mean that many people will become even sicker when left without care, leading to more costly emergency department visits "or worse," the AP/Observer reports. Carmen Julious, executive director of Palmetto AIDS Life Support Services in Columbia, said the Medicaid HIV/AIDS program provides "lifesaving medications," adding, "Compared to people's lives, that ($40,000) doesn't seem like a good balance to me." Sue Berkowitz, executive director of the low-income advocacy group South Carolina Appleseed Legal Justice Center, said that people "are going to die" because of the budget cuts.
The AP/Observer reports that other budget cuts include ending hospice care for Medicaid-only patients; decreasing the amount of assistance for prescription drug costs for low-income, elderly populations; reducing home health nurse visits from 75 to 50 per year; and reducing assistance to hospitals and nursing homes. The Medicaid program has lost $137 million since July while state spending has been reduced by $1 billion because of the economic situation and faltering tax collections (Davenport, AP/Charlotte Observer, 12/17). The Columbia State reports that the $61 million in state budget cuts will result in the loss of $398 million in federal matching funds. Jeff Stensland, a spokesperson with the state health department, said the budget cuts will affect patients but not essential care, adding that a proposed federal aid package for states could help fund some of the programs that will be eliminated or reduced (O'Connor, Columbia State, 12/18). Stensland also said that the department is "not happy about having to do any of these" cuts and that an increase in the demand for the state's Medicaid program is "just around the corner" because of the economic situation (AP/Charlotte Observer, 12/17).