About AIDS

Medicaid Should Care for HIV Disease Before AIDS

True or False: Most low-income people can get medical care for their HIV disease through the Medicaid system, just as they can for other health problems.

Shocking as it seems, the answer is largely "False." In Texas, a poor HIV-positive adult generally must wait until he/she has progressed fully to AIDS and become disabled before Medicaid will help. (Poz kids and their mothers are an exception.) We won't help you stay relatively healthy, the system says, but we'll pay your enormous medical bills when you get to the disabled, life-threatening stage.

Recently, California took a major step toward rationality by extending health care coverage to Californians who are HIV-positive but have not yet developed AIDS. The new program will provide full Medi-Cal (their Medicaid) benefits to HIVers already receiving their meds through the state's AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP). The change must be approved by the federal government, which partially funds Medicaid, but the state intends to pay for the added enrollment by increased use of managed care (HMOs).

Such a move is logical. Congress may take up the question in an Early Access to Care bill, but the whole Iraq/terrorism myopia may derail the debate. Regardless, the Texas Legislature should take a page from California's book and work out a solution for our state, as well. It is the only humane approach and will likely save money in the long run. Care for early HIV disease is cheap, compared to care for AIDS and disability.

Call your legislator today!

Sandy Bartlett

Community Education Coordinator, AIDS Services of Austin

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