HIV/AIDS Advocates Voice Opposition to Medication Co-Payments Included in Proposed New Jersey Budget
People living with HIV/AIDS in New Jersey could be negatively affected by prescription drug co-payments included in Gov. Jon Corzine's (D) proposed $29.8 billion budget, advocates told state lawmakers on Tuesday, the Newark Star-Ledger reports. The budget would collect $1.4 million from 9,000 people living with HIV/AIDS who have obtained no-cost medicine from the state because they do not qualify for other assistance programs. Advocates said that the co-payments will hurt patients who are already struggling because of the poor economy. John Covello, director of government and public affairs for the Independent Pharmacy Association of New Jersey, said, "From talking to stores, they know their patients will not have the ability to pay this and the consequences will be dire." He added that HIV/AIDS medications are "very, very expensive drugs."
In addition, the proposed budget would raise $4.6 million through $2 Medicaid prescription drug co-payments, capped at $10 monthly. Phil Lubitz, director of advocacy for the National Association of Mental Illness of New Jersey, said the proposal "really acts as a disincentive for people to go and fill their prescriptions." The Star-Ledger reports that a similar co-payment schedule was included in Corzine's proposed 2008 budget but was removed by lawmakers before the final budget was passed. While requesting Medicaid co-payments "has become an annual rite of the state's budget season," this is the first year co-payments from people living with HIV/AIDS have been included, the Star-Ledger reports.
While discussing the budget proposal at a New Jersey home, Corzine said that there is a "very low probability" that the Medicaid co-payments would be included in the final budget, adding that it "almost always gets adjusted by the Legislature." However, he did not give a direct response when asked about the HIV/AIDS medication co-payments. Corzine said there are "a lot of concerns" but "what we take out we have to put something else back in" (Reitmeyer/Young, Newark Star-Ledger, 3/25).