A diagnosis of AIDS used to be a death sentence, but with advances on drug treatment therapy, those diagnosed with HIV can extend their lives. The bipartisan Early Treatment for HIV Act being introduced today by House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) seeks to provide better access to expensive antiretroviral therapy for low income patients.
According to a press release from AIDS Action, the bill, which has 50 bipartison cosponsors, allows to states to offer Medicaid coverage to low income HIV positive people earlier in the course of their infection. Early treatment is more cost effective and substantially reduces the number of complications that require expensive treatment. With a $12,000 annual price tag, life-saving ARV drugs are out of reach for uninsured or underinsured low income HIV positive people.
Under current Medicaid laws, patients are ineligible for coverage until they have developed full-blown AIDS, when the condition becomes difficult to treat and complications are more likely. “In 2007, it is sad and shocking that most low-income and uninsured Americans living with HIV do not qualify for state Medicaid programs until they have received an AIDS diagnosis that may come too late for ARV treatment to be optimally effective,” Rebecca Haag, Executive Director of AIDS Action said. “This law will prolong and dramatically improve the quality of people’s lives by increasing access to care and treatment when it is most helpful. In most states, Medicaid now only covers HIV drugs and treatment after a person receives an AIDS diagnosis, when it is much too late in their disease progression; not when treatment and drug therapy can most improve people’s health outcomes. Current Medicaid eligibility rules are out of date with federal guidelines on the standard of care for treating HIV. ETHA will maximize health outcomes and reduce the financial burden on Federal and State healthcare programs.”
The costs of ARV medications is high, but a 2003 study by PricewaterhouseCoopers showed that State and Federal programs would have a net savings over a ten year period if the bill is passed. HIV positive people would also experience a slower progression of the disease. The death rate of Medicaid HIV patients would drop from 12% to 6% during the same period. “Passing ETHA would not only increase the number of people who have access to care, but it would save lives at a 50% greater rate than under current law,” said Haag.
Sourc: AIDS Action Press Release: (http://media.prnewswire.com/en/jsp/latest.jsp?resourceid=3528322&view=LOCAL)