AIDS Groups Wary of Medicaid Changes
March 11, 2003
Should the Bush administration's Medicaid proposal be implemented, its impact would likely be felt not only by individuals but also by AIDS and gay groups that rely on the federal health insurance program to deliver services.Adapted from:
"It would risk services for individuals and ... our entire HIV and AIDS infrastructure. We were able to build a public health response to the AIDS epidemic partially through targeted state investments, but largely through making Medicaid funding available to pay for the needed health care and support," said Michael Kink, legislative counsel at the AIDS service group Housing Works.
If approved by Congress, the new proposal would increase federal Medicaid spending over the next seven years and then cap the federal contribution to the program. It would also give states greater flexibility in how they spend Medicaid dollars and allow state governments to retain any money saved.
Over half of all people with AIDS and 90 percent of children with AIDS are covered by Medicaid. While they are covered as a mandatory population, AIDS patients receive some benefits that are optional under federal guidelines. Optional benefits, including the Medicaid drug benefit, could be a prime target for cash-strapped states.
Community organizations such as Housing Works, which relies on Medicaid for a substantial portion of its budget, may also feel the pinch. AIDS organization Harlem United receives 40 percent of its budget from Medicaid, according to Executive Director Patrick J. McGovern. McGovern is concerned about the latitude offered to states in the Bush plan. "In giving the governors so much discretion over their Medicaid programs they could greatly limit access to services or place caps on services. That could be devastating to people with AIDS as well the organizations that serve them," he said.
For its part, the Bush administration maintains that this is only a proposal and its impact has yet to be determined. Although the plan allows states to better design their programs, "people in the AIDS community are going to have to lobby their state governments," noted Mary Kahn, spokesperson for the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
Gay City News (New York City)
02.28.03; Duncan Osborne
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.