July 30, 2010
On Thursday, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's administration announced that nearly 1,000 residents who are to be cut from the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) on Aug. 1 will still be able to access treatment through a temporary program.
Under Christie's budget, tighter income restrictions for ADAP clients were enacted in order to save an estimated $7.4 million. ADAP lowered the income ceiling for clients to $32,490, or 300 percent of the poverty level for an individual, from the previous 500 percent individual cap of $54,150.
Unexpectedly, state officials learned "several weeks after the budget was adopted" that New Jersey will receive an additional $5 million in pharmaceutical company rebates, said Poonam Alaigh, commissioner of the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS).
With the rebate and additional federal funds, New Jersey will be able to extend treatment coverage to ADAP clients who make between 300 percent and 500 percent of the federal poverty level. DHSS can enroll these patients in a new program called the Temporary AIDS Supplemental Rebate and Federal Relief Program. New enrollments also will be permitted, said Donna Leusner, a spokesperson for the department.
AIDS advocates said they welcome the administration's about-face, while urging the state to make a longer-term commitment and cover drugs not directly related to AIDS.
"This was the compromise that we were looking for to begin with, so nobody had to go without their HIV meds," said David Condoluci, a physician who heads Garden State Infectious Diseases Associates in Voorhees. For several weeks, staff members were scrambling to help some of its 1,600 patients who were expected to lose coverage, he said.
Long term, the future of state-supported AIDS coverage is still undetermined, as "the department's budget process is year to year," said Leusner.