May #123 : First Aid for Your Medicaid - by David Thorpe

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Table of Contents
One Tough Pirate

Seeing the Future

Mentors-May 2006

Medicine Men

Custom Care

Early Birds

Simply Irresistible

The Topic of Cancer

Sow Your Oats

Trainer’s Bench-May 2006

Hustle and Flow

Animal Attraction

Purrrfect Health

Women on Top

PEP Rally

POZ Personals Catch of the Month-May 2006

First Aid for Your Medicaid

Shall We Dance?

A Will & Grace-full Exit?

Ratings for a Serial Virus

Squeaky Clean?

Prescription For Change

Bono’s Red Alert

One Hot ASO

Banned Aid

It’s Not You; It’s Me

Near Dead Again

Editor's Letter-May 2006

Mailbox-May 2006

Most Popular Lessons

The HIV Life Cycle


Herpes Simplex Virus

Syphilis & Neurosyphilis

Treatments for Opportunistic Infections (OIs)

What is AIDS & HIV?

Hepatitis & HIV

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May 2006

First Aid for Your Medicaid

by David Thorpe

Save your coverage from the new state and federal billion-dollar budget cuts

Fifty-three percent of HIV positive Americans rely on Medicaid for meds and treatment. In February, President George W. Bush signed a bill letting states drastically hike the cost of their coverage. The Congressional Budget Office says the legislation will save nearly $5 billion—approximately $1 billion of which will come from forcing patients to ditch essential services they can no longer afford. Before the change, which took effect in March, states were required to guarantee care to everyone on Medicaid, even those who couldn’t cover the $3 copay. But copays may jump to as much as 20% of the total prescription and medical services. What’s more, states can deny services to anyone lacking funds. “This bill should trouble anyone who cares about people with HIV,” says Jeffrey Crowley, a Medicaid specialist at Georgetown’s Health Policy Institute. “Depending on your annual income, a $50 copay could mean the difference between getting and not getting your drugs.”

States needn’t implement the law. But Medicaid costs consume roughly 17% of state general-fund budgets, and some cash-strapped legislatures have knocked thousands of patients off benefit lists or limited their drug options. Crowley hopes that many states will resist. “State economies are improving,” he adds. “Then again, an economic downturn could impose harsh cost-sharing measures.” Bush’s 2007 budget proposal, meanwhile, will cut an additional $5 billion from Medicaid, making states foot the difference. “If that budget passes, states that would have held off on severe copay raises or denying services will have to use these mechanisms,” says Michael Kink of New York AIDS organization Housing Works. Bush himself has said the cuts are necessary to curtail the soaring national deficit. “It’s slowing down the rate of growth. It’s the difference between slowing your car down to go the speed limit or putting your car in reverse,” says Bush.     

“Right now, the fight to keep benefits is all about advocacy,” says Crowley. And folks in Mississippi are leading the brawl. A state law passed in 2004 imposed a cap of five drugs for Medicaid recipients, only two of which could be brand-name. Last June, weeks before the bill kicked in, activists from AIDS Action in Mississippi (AAIM) rallied on the state capitol’s steps. They proclaimed that the governor had signed a death sentence for people with HIV, since HAART usually requires three brand-name drugs. Shortly afterward, Republican Governor Haley Barbour announced that he wouldn’t apply the two-drug policy to people with HIV. “I was a little shocked,” recalls AAIM’s Shannon Reaze. But the waiver doesn’t help people who are negative. In December, AAIM signed on to support a lawsuit brought by Medicaid recipients in Mississippi with the help of a coalition of local and national advocacy organizations to overturn the cap. A ruling was pending as POZ went to press. “State legislatures need to hear from people with HIV,” says Kink. So contact your representative and your local AIDS group. “Testimony like that can swing even the Feds around,” he says. Get busy.    

To take action, contact:

AIDS Action


Campaign to End AIDS

Housing Works

Treatment Access Expansion Project

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