HIV: House Lawmakers Call For Expanded Medicaid Coverage
House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-MO) and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) yesterday urged Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala to "expand Medicaid to low-income people who are HIV-positive but have not yet developed symptoms of HIV disease." In a letter signed by 66 other House lawmakers, Gephardt said, "It is unconscionable to deny people living with HIV the drugs we know can help keep them well simply because they have no health insurance or are not yet sick enough to qualify for Medicaid." He said it is his "fervent hope" that the Clinton Administration will "fill this unjustifiable gap in our current Medicaid policy." Under current Medicaid regulations, people infected with HIV must become "sick and disabled" before receiving benefits. The policy "runs counter" to recommendations developed by HHS and a panel of medical experts, which advises that people with HIV receive early treatment with protease inhibitors. "It is imperative that our government health care programs catch up with the recommendations of government health care experts," Pelosi said. A study released by the University of California- San Francisco, reported that offering combination antiretroviral therapy under Medicaid would "prevent thousands of deaths and AIDS diagnoses, leading to 14,500 more years of life for persons with HIV disease over five years." Study authors called the program "affordable from a federal perspective" (Gephardt release, 8/3).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.