HIV/AIDS: Congress Approves Bill For Hemophiliacs
"Last-minute lobbying led to deceptively easy" Senate approval yesterday of Sen. Mike DeWine's (R-OH) version of the Ricky Ray Hemophilia Relief Act, the AP/Akron Beacon Journal reports. The act "authorizes payments of $100,000 apiece to compensate hemophiliacs or their survivors for the government's failure to aggressively screen tainted blood products." Sen. James Jeffords (R-VT) dropped his insistence that non-hemophiliacs who contracted HIV through blood transfusions also be included in the bill "after it became clear that he could not develop consensus to include the transfusion victims," which was expected to "double the cost" of the measure. Jeffords spokesperson Joe Karpinski "said Jeffords will try again next year to include transfusion victims." The AP/Beacon Journal reports that the measure "does not put the checks in the mail ... because it does not allocate any money. However, with the authorization in hand, the bill's backers can lobby Congress to appropriate the estimated $750 million it would cost" (Rizzo, 10/22).
Robbing Ryan To Pay Ricky?
Expressing cautious approval of the bill, AIDS Action Executive Director David Zingale said in a release that the "Senate's passage ... is a great victory for those who suffered at the hands of a negligent federal health bureaucracy. ... [W]e are pleased that the families of those who died from government negligence will once and for all get restitution." However, Zingale warned that his group "will work to ensure that the approximately $750 million in funding is not drawn from life- saving AIDS programs, including the Ryan White Care Act. Don't rob from Ryan to pay for Ricky" (AIDS Action release, 10/21). Katherine Muir, president of the National Hemophilia Foundation, said, "This is a great day for the bleeding disorders community. ... This money will help offset medical bills that have accumulated over many years. The cost for HIV and hemophilia treatment is quite expensive and this compassionate payment will help address ongoing medical cost[s] which have often resulted" (NHF release, 10/21).