Reps. Introduce Bill To Expand Medicaid Coverage to Some HIV-Positive People
Reps. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) have introduced a bill (H.R. 1616) to allow states to expand Medicaid coverage to low-income HIV-positive people, CQ HealthBeat reports. The bill would permit states to change their Medicaid eligibility policies to increase access to early and cost-effective HIV treatment before the virus progresses to AIDS, Engel said in a statement. According to Engel, this approach would be "more cost effective for the federal government since it's much more expensive to treat patients with AIDS than HIV."
Under current Social Security regulations, HIV-positive people must be disabled by the virus before they can receive Medicaid coverage, according to Engel's statement. The bill would allow participating states to receive higher federal rates for providing treatment to people living with HIV and is similar to other initiatives, such as the Children's Health Insurance Program and a program providing early Medicaid access to low-income women with cancer. "It makes no sense that a person must develop ... AIDS before Medicaid can treat them," Ros-Lehtinen said in the statement. She added, "This legislation would remedy this by giving states the option to extend Medicaid coverage to low-income persons so that they can confront their HIV before it becomes AIDS and thus help them from becoming terminally ill and a burden on their families and the public health system" (Feldman, CQ HealthBeat, 3/26).