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Panel: Feds Should Help Pay for HIV Care
  Associated Press
May 13, 2004
Elizabeth Wolfe
Streamlining HIV/AIDS care by shifting current federal spending,including Medicaid funds, into a single entitlement program would helpthe thousands of low-income Americans with HIV who are not gettingproper care, a report by the nonprofit Institute of Medicine (IOM)recommended Thursday. Such expanded coverage - including mental healthand substance abuse assistance - would cost $5.6 billion over 10 years,said the IOM study, which was sponsored by the Department of Health andHuman Services (HHS).
Currently, government programs are hindered by state budgetshortfalls and confusing eligibility standards that vary from state tostate, resulting in thousands of people lacking access to new andimproved AIDS drugs, the report noted. "Failing to provide these cost-effective, lifesaving drugs to all Americans who need them - includingindividuals who lack insurance or cannot afford them - isindefensible," said Lauren LeRoy, chair of the committee charged byCongress to examine the public finance structure of HIV care for low-income, uninsured and underinsured people.
Providing a single public financing arrangement - includinguniform eligibility requirements and a federally defined set ofservices - would address gaps and coordination lapses in the currentsystem. "The current federal-state partnership for financing HIV careis unresponsive to the fact that HIV/AIDS is a national epidemic withconsequences that spill across state borders," wrote the panel. Thestudy's authors also stressed that a single entitlement program wouldrelieve cash-strapped state Medicaid programs.
Under the proposed program, the report estimates as many as 58,000more people would receive HIV treatment, and immediate access to drugtherapy could prevent around 20,000 deaths over a 10-year period.
The "committee has recommended fundamental changes, in effectarguing that existing cooperative programs should be replaced by a newfederal entitlement program. Such an approach would require sweepinglegislative changes," HHS responded in a statement, suggesting thepanel's recommendations were overreaching. HHS added that is reviewingits existing programs.
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