September 17, 2009
Under a draft proposal released on Sept. 9, Medicare, the government health insurance program for the elderly and disabled, would pay for HIV testing for its enrollees. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) said it has sufficient evidence to show that such screenings could help detect the infection sooner.
"CMS believes that there is now adequate evidence that voluntary HIV screening is reasonable and necessary for early detection of HIV and is appropriate for Medicare beneficiaries," the agency said.
Medicare has more than 45 million enrollees. While CMS said HIV testing should be available for those in high-risk groups and for pregnant women, any Medicare patient who requests screening should receive it even if he or she is not considered at risk "since this group is likely to include individuals not willing to disclose high-risk behaviors," the agency said.
Approximately 19 percent of people living with AIDS were at least age 50 when they were diagnosed, said US Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. "Knowing about their HIV status can help patients live longer, fuller lives as well as avoid unintentional transmission of the virus to others," she said.
While tests for HIV have been available in the United States since 1985, it was not until earlier this year that CMS was allowed by law to consider covering more preventive services.
CMS will hold a 30-day public comment on the decision before making its final ruling, which is expected by Dec. 8. The draft decision is available at https://www.cms.hhs.gov/mcd/viewdraftdecisionmemo.asp?id=229.