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Why We Need a Budget Deal Before January 1

December 3, 2012

HIV activists delighted the press last week by stripping to the buff in Speaker Boehner's office to show the "naked truth" about the effect sequestration will have on HIV programs.

We love theater. But NASTAD has prepared a more sober summary of what sequestration would mean for people living with HIV. State ADAP waiting lists would increase to 16,000. Ryan White Part B programs, funding testing and patient navigation and support programs, would be cut to the bone. HIV prevention and surveillance programs would be hit hard. The Prevention and Public Health Fund, which supports much of the CDC's HIV and hepatitis prevention work, would lose $76 million. That's before we even think about the impact of potential Medicaid and Medicare cuts.

Let's be clear on this: the public sector is an indispensable partner in the campaign to end this country's HIV epidemic. Mercury News and public interest group Face the Facts USA estimate nearly half of Americans living with HIV get their health care through Medicaid. Others estimate three-quarters of the country's total HIV costs are borne by the public sector.

Public sector cuts will cause suffering in the short term and raise care costs in the long term. MedPage Today reported last week that cutting Medicare consults for seniors actually raised total care costs. The road to lower health care costs lies through preventive care. That means paying up front today to avoid having to pay much more tomorrow for late, acute care.

Sequestration, if we allow it to happen, will undercut the Affordable Care Act's promise of moving America from an acute care to a preventive care model. We can't let that happen -- not just for our own sakes, as people with HIV, but for everyone's.

There is talk of allowing sequestration to take effect January 1, and then repealing it piece by piece. That's not a good solution for people with HIV and other serious health conditions, because the sequestered health care funds may never be restored.

Call your Congressman. Tell him or her we need a budget deal before January 1. You can find your Representative's office phone at www.house.gov.




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