NMAC Celebrates ACA Anniversary

NMAC Urges Court to Uphold Law’s Critical Medicaid Expansion

Washington, DC – As the nation marks the two year anniversary of the enactment of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), the Supreme Court is preparing to hear oral arguments on the constitutionality of several elements of that law.  The ACA does more to improve America’s response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic than any piece of legislation since the Ryan White CARE Act.  As such, the Court’s decision will have implications far beyond the federal government’s authority to regulate the insurance market.  It could very well determine the fate of our nation’s struggle against AIDS.

“The ACA includes several reforms that will improve our nation’s ability to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS,” said National Minority AIDS Council Director of Legislative and Public Affairs Kali Lindsey.  “Whether banning the practice of denying coverage to Americans with pre-existing conditions like HIV infection, or caps on life-time expenditures, this law will improve access to care for hundreds of thousands of people living with HIV.  The costs associated with these enhancements are offset in part through the law’s minimum coverage requirement or the ‘individual mandate.’ But while the mandate has received the majority of public scrutiny, its expansion of the Medicaid program is perhaps the most powerful policy ever employed in the fight to bring an end to this 30 year epidemic.”

As such, NMAC filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court last month in support of the law’s Medicaid expansion.  In its brief, NMAC urges the Court to uphold the expansion, which would eliminate current disability requirements and expand eligibility to all citizens making up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL).  Currently, low-income individuals living with HIV are not eligible for Medicaid until they are disabled by AIDS.

“Current Medicaid eligibility requirements lack both sense and humanity, and provide no fiscal or public health benefit,” added Lindsey.  “They create a system in which individuals must be diagnosed with AIDS in order to gain access to the very treatments that could have prevented that diagnosis in the first place.  This endangers the health of the very people that Medicaid is meant to serve, while raising program costs by delaying care until the latest and most expensive stages of the disease.  What’s more, it limits access to treatment which could suppress an individual’s viral load, making it considerably less likely that he or she will transmit the virus to others.”

Recent studies have shown that early enrollment in highly active antiretroviral treatment (HAART), suppresses an individual’s viral load, and reduces the likelihood that he or she will transmit the virus to others by 96 percent.

“Socio-economic status is arguably the most significant factor in determining an individual’s vulnerability to HIV infection,” added Lindsey.  “A recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analysis found that individuals living below the federal poverty level were twice as likely to contract HIV as those whose income places them above that threshold.  Ensuring that those who are the most vulnerable to infection, including those living in poverty, have access to quality health care is the single most important step we as a nation can take to combat the HIV/AIDS epidemic.  As the Court considers this landmark legislation, NMAC urges its justices to consider what’s really at stake.  This is not about some abstract legal concept, but whether we as a nation will do what it takes to end this epidemic.”

NMAC’s full amicus brief can be read here:  http://www.nmac.org/images/NMAC_ACA_AmicusBrief.pdf

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Contact:  Kyle Murphy, (202) 483-6622 ext. 333

kmurphy@nmac.org