March 20, 2012
This week marks second anniversary of the passing of Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), which the Obama administration states will bring 32 million Americans without healthcare into the care delivery system. People living with HIV have already seen how important the Affordable Care Act is. The elimination of lifetime caps; protection against discrimination because of a pre-existing condition; the ability to stay on a parent's health insurance until age 26, given the increasing number of HIV/AIDS cases among young people; the creation of high-risk insurance pools; and even the ACA's implementation in a number of states, including the largest state in the Union: California.
But we are not done yet. The law is facing opposition in state legislatures and in the court system, including the Supreme Court. And even as we move forward toward the ACA's full implementation, many issues need to be addressed for people with HIV/AIDS to maximize its potential benefit.
It's important that AIDS advocates, AIDS organizations and people living with HIV pay attention to the ACA's implementation and rollout. One area of particular concern is the Essential Health Benefits (EHB) package, which essentially establishes the baseline for what insurance companies must offer. Originally minimums standards existed for EHB packages. But now conversations are taking place that might allow the individual states to determine their own EHB floors. This means that whether you live or die could be determined by your zip code. We already know that that doesn't work. The ACA will succeed in part because it offers everyone basic care to help prevent disease and keep them healthy longer. Cost savings occur in pat because people won't have to utilize emergency rooms as often or find themselves unnecessarily in end-stage disease.
As we look to the election cycle, we also need to aggressively ask all of the candidates -- from top of the ticket to those for local offices -- what commitments they will make to ensure both a healthy America and that people living with HIV can access the healthcare that we need and deserve.
Yours in the struggle,