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Clinton Initiative Includes First Step Toward Enactment of Reinventing Medicaid Plan

Medicaid buy-in for those with asymptomatic HIV part of health care proposal

January 13, 1999

Contact: media@aidsaction.org or call: 202-986-1300


Washington, D.C. -- AIDS Action won the first step toward enactment of its Reinventing Medicaid proposal when President Clinton included a scaled-down version in a broad health care proposal for the disabled introduced today. The Clinton Administration's five-year, $2 billion so-called Back-to-Work plan would extend Medicaid and Medicare health benefits as well as other incentives to disabled Americans, including those with AIDS. The plan, designed to allow the disabled to return to work without losing health coverage, also includes a $1,000 tax credit to cover transition costs related to employment.

Included in the White House proposal is a demonstration project that would allow states to provide Medicaid coverage to low-income individuals with asymptomatic HIV disease and other potentially serious conditions. Under current Medicaid policy, an HIV-positive individual qualifies for benefits, including access to protease inhibitor drugs that can prevent the progression of HIV disease, only when they are diagnosed with full-blown AIDS.

AIDS Action has proposed a Reinventing Medicaid plan that would provide eligibility to HIV-positive individuals who are poor enough but not sick enough to be eligible for the program. Vice President Gore endorsed AIDS Action's plan in the spring of 1997 but, until today, no proposals were made and no action had been taken. The Back-to-Work proposal will be part of President Clinton's budget proposal and will require passage by Congress.

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"This first step toward fairness in Medicaid is a victory for thousands of low-income people living with HIV," said AIDS Action executive director Daniel Zingale. "If automobile safety regulations followed the current model, air bags would only be required in cars that have already crashed."

Reinventing Medicaid to cover healthy HIV-positive Americans would save lives and save money. Every major study of protease cocktails has shown that early treatment provides the best route for preventing the onset of illness. Moreover, the cost of providing drugs early would offset the exorbitant hospitalization and other medical costs that AIDS treatment incurs.

AIDS Action strongly supports the broad Back-to-Work proposal. During the past several years, many Americans previously disabled by AIDS and forced onto Medicaid have benefited from powerful new drugs that can enable them to return to work. Still, because the income from a new job might disqualify Medicaid coverage but not provide adequate health coverage, some people with AIDS have been forced to choose between returning to work or access to care.

"This proposal parallels the needs of people with AIDS and the state of the epidemic," added Zingale. "No American should have to make a choice between work and health."



  
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This article was provided by AIDS Action Council.
 
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