April 4, 2011
Low-income Louisiana residents with HIV could access treatment and health care under a Medicaid waiver, and the state Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) should request one, a new report suggests.
In June 2010, the state Office of Public Health was forced to close off enrollment in Louisiana's AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) to new clients. Since then, more than 500 people with HIV have been turned away from ADAP, according to the Louisiana State Healthcare Access Research Project. However, the state could request a statewide HIV Medicaid waiver to extend program eligibility to low-income patients who are not yet disabled, according to the report by Harvard Law School's Health Law and Policy Clinic.
Without a waiver, low-income residents qualify for Medicaid only if severely disabled or pregnant. To include people who have HIV but are not disabled, Louisiana would need to prove to the federal government that spending the money now will cut costs in the future.
"Right now under the current Medicaid system, you have to be so sick and disabled," said Robert Greenwald, report co-author and director of the clinic. "We need to get to the people early before it comes to that."
DHH Secretary Bruce Greenstein "is intrigued by the concept and very open and interested in talking about it," said agency spokesperson Lisa Faust. Under the recent $1 million federal grant awarded to address the ADAP gap, Louisiana has enrolled 173 patients and expects to have enough to add another 200 to 300, she said.