MEDI-CAL: Mercury News Says Program Should Cover HIV Patients
Now that there are good treatments for HIV-infected people, "it makes sense to shift focus to helping prevent HIV from advancing to AIDS for as long as possible," argues an editorial in yesterday's San Jose Mercury News. A few years ago when there was no treatment for HIV, it made sense for only people in the late stages of AIDS to be covered by Medi-Cal, California's health program for the poor and disabled. However, "[i]n the long run," extending Medi-Cal coverage to HIV-positive people "would save money" by keeping "these people among the tax-paying population while a cure is sought." Medi-Cal coverage would also guarantee these people have access to protease inhibitors, thus helping to "reduce transmission of the virus" -- a boon for the uninfected population also, the editorial notes.
Long-Term Problem, Long-Term Solution
While the editorial concedes that extending Medi-Cal coverage to HIV-infected Californians would cost $118 million annually -- "$59 million from the state and the rest from Washington" -- the piece contends "a purely money-saving rationale is short-sighted as well as inhumane." They assert: "We're not taking about building a new freeway. We're talking about people's lives." They write that extending Medi-Cal would save money in the long-term because "aggressive treatment now of HIV ... means individuals working and being productive for many more years." The piece advocates passage of state Assemblywoman Dion Aroner's (D-Berkeley) bill that would extend Medi-Cal to cover HIV (AB 2762). "We recognize the administration's cost concerns, but we also recognize what's at stake for the many people who are and will be HIV-positive and whose only hope is a drug regimen. .. We urge the Legislature, Gov. Wilson and his administration and Washington to work together, rather than against each other, to find a way to ensure these people a chance to live" the editorial concludes (7/14).