Texas Health Department Could Cut Off HIV Medicine
January 16, 2003
The Texas Department of Health is scheduled to decide Thursday whether it will change its HIV medication program to include a more restrictive income cutoff making it harder for low-income people to qualify.Adapted from:
As many as 20 percent of the nearly 12,000 HIV-positive Texans who rely on the program would be affected by the change. "These are people's sons and daughters," said Rep. Garnet Coleman (D-Houston). "There is no cure for AIDS. We only maintain life through the medications that are available."
Coleman said Wednesday that he wants the health department to allow the Legislature to decide what to do with the program. "There is no reason in a life and death situation that the elected officials that come from each district in the state are not making that decision," he said. "I don't believe we ought to decrease the eligibility level because it threatens people's lives and literally we could end up with some dead Texans based on this decision."
Health officials say they have no choice but to make the change because of a projected $37 million deficit in the next two fiscal years. The $60 million program faces a $3 million shortfall for this fiscal year, which ends in August.
If the change goes through Thursday, it would be effective immediately. Existing enrollees would be given a six-month grace period to find other options, officials said. An estimated 2,500 people would lose coverage by August 2005.
The program, funded by state and federal dollars, is designed to be a safety net for people who can't get all their medications covered by Medicaid or earn slightly too much to qualify for public assistance. Program costs are escalating because more clients are eligible; about 9,000 were served in 1999 compared with a projected 11,500 in 2002. Furthermore, the average cost per client has nearly doubled since 1996 to about $9,500 annually with costs expected to escalate further.
01.16.03; Connie Mabin