March 7, 2008
Sen. Gordon Smith (R-OR) and Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) are offering an amendment to the FY 2009 budget to set aside $500 million in a reserve fund for the Early Treatment for HIV Act (ETHA) Demonstration project. The project is the first step on the road to ETHA itself, which would allow states to extend Medicaid coverage to low-income people with HIV before they became disabled by AIDS, something that current Medicaid eligibility requires.
ETHA is of incredible importance: It would greatly reduce the death rate for people with HIV on Medicaid and help relieve the financial burden on other programs, including the AIDS Drug Assistance Program. That's why it's crucial for you to call your senator and ask them to support the $500 million reserve fund.
Yes, you may have heard this story before. Last year ETHA didn't make it out of committee. But advocates say the chances of the amendment's passage this year are much better because the proposal is happening during budget reconciliation, where contentious budget bills are considered without being subject to filibuster.
While the Gordon-Clinton amendment would set up a reserve fund in the budget to allow for the $500 million set-aside, there is no guarantee that full-fledged ETHA, or even the ETHA pilot program, will take place. But the reserve is an excellent way to get ETHA on the radar.
"The best thing is that this keeps the issue out there and alive," said AIDS Institute's Director of Federal Affairs Carl Schmid.
Contact your senators immediately! Tell them to support Brown and Clinton's amendment to the FY 2009 Budget Resolution to create a $500 million reserve fund to provide for a demonstration project that would allow states to readily amend their Medicaid eligibility requirements to include low income people with HIV without requiring them to be disabled. They can be reached via the U.S. Capitol switchboard at (202)225-3121.