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National News

Oregon, Like Other States, Is Scaling Back Money for AIDS Drugs

July 31, 2002

Oregon is delaying and reducing benefits for low-income people who rely on the state for help purchasing AIDS drugs. Oregon is not currently accepting new applicants for the program -- one of the consequences of a $1.7 million shortfall in the $3.8 million set aside for AIDS drugs. For the first time in a decade, Oregon's program has a waiting list: 18 people are waiting to join the 769 currently covered.

While Oregon's program pays directly for some drugs, it mainly pays for insurance that covers medication and health services. The Oregon Department of Health and Human Services is looking for ways to tackle the shortfall, including creating new monthly charges for all clients and eliminating payments for non-drug services, such as doctor visits, for those who earn the most. Another possibility: Turn some applicants away. The state is considering lowering the annual income cap for a single applicant from $28,795 to $17,760. A final plan, to be approved next month, will take effect by October.

Dr. Mel Kohn, the state's top-ranking disease expert, would prefer to keep benefits intact. Not only do the AIDS drugs keep people alive longer, they also fight the spread of HIV by lowering the amount of virus in the blood, he said. "This program is important, not only for people already infected, but for prevention as well. But we have to run it in a fiscally sound manner," Kohn said.

AIDS activist Steve Carroll, who relies on the program to pay for AIDS drugs, has criticized, along with other advocates, Oregon for not making the budget problem public sooner. Cascade AIDS Project Executive Director Thomas Bruner said AIDS service providers are already feeling the shortage. The group that distributes federal AIDS money in Portland decided this month to shift $400,000 to drug coverage beginning in March. Bruner said this means his agency and others must cut housing, transportation and other services.

Back to other CDC news for July 31, 2002

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Adapted from:
Associated Press

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
See Also
More HIV Treatment Policy News on the Western U.S.