Highlights Role Medicaid Expansion Will Play in Ending HIV/AIDS Epidemic
Washington, DC – For the first time in its history, the National Minority AIDS Council (NMAC) filed an amicus brief today with the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of State of Florida, et al. v. Department of Health and Human Services, et al. NMAC is joined in its brief by four leading national HIV/AIDS organizations, amFAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research; HIV Medicine Association; National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors; and the Treatment Access Expansion Project.
In its brief, NMAC urges the Court to uphold the Medicaid expansion included in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), 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 an AIDS diagnosis. The expansion included in the ACA will provide access to health care for thousands of individuals living with HIV, as well as make huge strides in combatting the spread of the epidemic.
“Current Medicaid eligibility requirements lack both sense and humanity, as well as provide little fiscal or public health benefit,” said NMAC Director of Legislative and Public Affairs Kali 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 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. In British Columbia, Canada, providing access to treatment for individuals living with HIV resulted in a 50 percent reduction in new HIV infections. Taiwan saw similar results, with a 53 percent reduction in new infections after it began providing free access to HAART.
“Socio-economic status is the single-most important factor in determining an individual’s vulnerability to HIV infection,” continued Lindsey. “A recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analysis of 23 urban areas with high rates of poverty found that individuals living below the federal poverty level were twice as likely to be living with HIV as those whose income places them above that threshold. Ensuring that those at greatest risk of contracting the virus, including those living in poverty, have access to health care is the single most important step we as a nation can take to combat the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the constitutionality of the Medicaid expansion. Today, NMAC urges the Supreme Court to do the same. We have the tools to end this epidemic. The ACA’s Medicaid expansion will go far in helping to achieve that goal.
Contact: Kyle Murphy, (202) 483-6622 ext.333