Despite Bill's Flaws, AIDS Advocates Rally Around Health Care Reform
March 17, 2010
It's do-or-die time for health care reform, and AIDS advocates are out in full-force demanding Congress pass the bill, which would expand coverage to millions of Americans. Unfortunately, one of AIDS advocates' top priorities -- the Early Treatment for HIV Act (ETHA) -- was not included in the legislation. But despite that setback, the lack of a public option, the increase in funding for abstinence-only education, and the curtailing of abortion rights, AIDS advocates are still supporting the bill.
"The House needs to do its job and pass health care reform," said Christine Campbell, Housing Works Vice President of National Advocacy and Organizing. "The bill is far from perfect, but it goes a long way to shoring up the support system for people living with HIV/AIDS."
The loss of ETHA, for the time being, is a blow: It would have allowed states to expand Medicaid to people with HIV before they get sick, taking pressure off of the AIDS Drug Assistance Program. ADAP is a discretionary funding source and at the whim of the latest budget crisis.. Unfortunately, although ETHA is a cost-saving measure when looked at holistically, it bumps up the price tag on the bill, making it unpalatable for lawmakers.
"We know we have a growing ADAP crisis. [If something isn't done soon], we'll start to see people dying on waiting lists. What we were trying to offer is something that would help the administration and Congress address this crisis. We know we're going to keep coming back to address this issue," said Robert Greenwald, executive director of the Treatment Access Expansion Project and a member of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS.
But Greenwald said even ETHA would have only been a temporary placeholder until the health care reform changes are implemented in 2014.
"The current bill is a significant, significant step forward, and beyond what we would have accomplished through ETHA," Greenwald said. "There's no question in my mind there are some things that did not get addressed, and not going through the public option, we didn't do nearly what we should to bring down health care costs. The big lost opportunity was not considering a completely reformed system."
So why are we supporting health care reform, again?
Let's take a look, shall we?
Some of the good parts of the health care reform legislation for people living with HIV/AIDS, as outlined by AIDS Action:
Public health care
Private health insurance
Other key improvements
Yes, you can still call your representative!
The House is expected to vote on health care reform as early as this Saturday. Tell your representative you support health care reform now! Call 202-555-1212 for the Congressional switchboard. See who represents you!
This article was provided by Housing Works. It is a part of the publication Housing Works AIDS Issues Update. Visit Housing Works' website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.
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