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AIDS Action Weekly Update

April 11, 1997

Vice President Endorses AIDS Action Medicaid Expansion Initiative

Vice President Al Gore, Jr., announced during AIDS Action's seventh annual National Leadership Awards that he has asked the Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA) to find ways to implement an AIDS Action initiative which would expand Medicaid and allow more low-income Americans with HIV access to new AIDS drug therapies. The Medicaid expansion initiative was proposed by AIDS Action a month ago to officials from HCFA and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). In the discussion, AIDS Action cited current Medicaid eligibility criteria as contradictory to AIDS clinical evidence and care standards which call for early treatment of HIV disease. While over half of all Americans with AIDS now rely on Medicaid for access to health care, many low-income people with HIV are denied that access because they are ineligible for Medicaid unless their incomes fall below certain levels and the Social Security Administration declares them disabled, generally following a diagnosis of full-blown AIDS. By making new therapies and drugs available to people at an earlier stage of the disease, the expansion of Medicaid to people with HIV will help in delaying the onset of AIDS in these individuals resulting in less frequent hospitalizations and a longer and better quality of life. Vice President Gore has asked officials at HCFA to report back to him within 30 days on the feasibility of such an expansion. The Vice President and his wife Tipper were honored with AIDS Action's National Leadership Award for Public Service.

AIDS Czar Appointed; Hhs Appointment Of Special Assistant On AIDS

Many challenges await the new White House director of the Office of National AIDS Policy Sandy Thurman whose appointment was announced Tuesday April 7. Those challenges include working with Congress to ensure adequate funding for federal AIDS programs and fighting against legislation that will negatively impact people living with HIV/AIDS. Ms. Thurman has direct experience running a community-based organization providing services to people affected by HIV and AIDS, as well as extensive experience as a political professional. While speaking at an AIDS Action Council board meeting, Ms. Thurman expressed her plan to work closely with the AIDS community and to coordinate a response to the needs of people with HIV and AIDS through a collaborative effort between all relevant federal agencies. She also voiced her strong interest in the needle exchange programs issue and Medicaid related issues. Advocates within the AIDS community look forward to working with Ms. Thurman and the Office of National AIDS Policy to insure that both the new and old sets of challenges around AIDS are met with policies that bridge the chasm between science and politics, as well as maintain meaningful investments in the new-found hope.

Other Administration appointments include that of Marsha Martin who has been named special assistant to Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala. One of the first assignments required of the position will be to advise the secretary on the programs, services and assistance offered by HHS to people with AIDS and the homeless. Prior to her appointment Ms. Martin was Coordinator for Homeless Veterans Initiatives at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) where she was responsible for coordinating programs, services, and assistance offered by the VA to homeless and at-risk veterans.

AIDSWatch '97 April 13-15

Advocates for people living with AIDS from throughout the country will gather in Washington this weekend in preparation for AIDSWatch '97. A briefing for participants will be held Sunday, April 13, with lobbying visits to congressional offices to take place Monday, April 14, and Tuesday, April 15. The Sunday briefing will cover appropriations for federal AIDS research, prevention, care, and housing programs as well as other appropriations-related issues such as needle exchange programs and the Coburn bill (H.R. 1062). Approximately 400 individuals are expected to participate this year.

Automatic Continuing Resolution Considered

To eliminate the possibility of a government shutdown, which won the GOP great disfavor during the 104th Congress, the Senate will consider attaching an automatic continuing resolution (CR) to the FY 97 supplemental appropriations bill that will begin moving through Congress this spring. The bill, sponsored by Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) and John McCain (R-AZ), would trigger an automatic CR for any of the 13 appropriations bills that have not been passed by the start of the fiscal year, October 1, and would provide funding for these bills at 98 percent of the FY 97 funding level. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) and Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R-GA) expressed their support for this legislation. Such a bill would have a devastating impact on federal AIDS programs, which are already underfunded as spending level increases fail to keep pace with the growth of the epidemic.

For more information, contact:
Lisa White
AIDS Action Council
1875 Connecticut Avenue NW #700
Washington DC 20009
202-986-1300, extension 3053
202-986-1345 (fax)
202-332-9614 (tty)

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This article was provided by AIDS Action Council. It is a part of the publication AIDS Action Weekly Update.