November 19, 2012
Silence is golden! No more political attack ads! No more competing polls! Now that air time is cheap again, seriously annoying mattress and cheap furniture ads are back on the air -- unchanged for years, apart from the deal of the day -- and we greet them like old friends.
President Obama has been solidly reelected, and the Democrat Senate majority actually increased. The Affordable Care Act, with all it means for people living with HIV (PLWHA), will remain the law of the land. Our priorities now are funding ACA adequately, continuing Ryan White Care Act programs at least at present funding levels, and ensuring that Medicaid, ADAP, and Medicare continue to serve those who need them most.
That means action now moves to the House of Representatives, because the House appropriates funds for Federal programs. The Senate can pass its own budget and force budget negotiations into conference committee, and the President can choose whether to sign or veto the final bill that emerges. But the House is where the process starts.
And the lame duck House session about to begin will have a major decision before it: whether to finally make a deficit reduction deal reducing the Federal deficit in a way that is perceived as fair to all Americans. If the Representatives can't or won't, "sequestration" takes effect, and programs for PLWHA will take cuts along with other "discretionary" spending -- just when we know we can end the epidemic, expensive in the short run, but far more expensive if we don't do it. Keeping those of us who are already infected healthy, and preventing most if not all future infections, will drastically reduce the public sector's HIV health care cost. Let's never forget that roughly half of American PLWHA depend on Medicaid for their care, and many more rely on ADAPs. Three-quarters of our HIV costs are borne in the public sector, so budgeting to meet current needs today to reduce future costs is both humane and good fiscal policy.
Sequestration shouldn't be allowed to happen! And if it does, HIV programs should be exempt, as Bono told members of Congress last week. The short-term "savings" don't justify the long-term human and fiscal cost.
So call your Representative (click HERE for House phone numbers)! You will probably end up talking to the Member's health issues staff person. Tell the staffer, sequestration shouldn't happen, but if a deficit reduction deal can't be reached, programs that reduce costs dramatically over five and ten years should not be cut to reach an arbitrary budget goal this year.