Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Debt Ceiling Negotiations Could Halt Progress Against HIV/AIDS

via Huffpost Chicago, By David Ernesto Munar

As part of its debt ceiling negotiations, the Obama administration is on the verge of undermining one of the most significant policies it has put in place to alleviate the nation's 30-year HIV/AIDS crisis, which directly affects more than 1.2 million Americans.

In a sad twist of irony, the White House proposal to rollback critical health benefits, essential to the control of HIV/AIDS, is emerging on the one-year anniversary of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, unveiled by President Obama in July 2010.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reports that the White House is considering deep federal funding cuts for state Medicaid programs, a proposal which could have an immediate, chilling effect on efforts to meet the benchmark goals described in the National HIV/AIDS Strategy. Moreover, it would render the federal health reform law virtually meaningless for millions of low-income Americans.

Medicaid expansion for all low-income Americans, regardless of their health status, is the centerpiece of the health reform law championed by President Obama in 2010. Without full funding from the federal government to help states finance Medicaid expansion, low-income individuals -- including hundreds of thousands with and at risk for HIV -- will struggle to gain access to adequate healthcare services from bankrupt Medicaid programs, which will be unable to make up the shortfall in reduced federal funding.

The White House contends that its proposal for a "blended rate" of Medicaid financing for states is far superior to GOP plans to give states a fixed block grant to cover all their low-income healthcare needs, no matter how extensive. While indisputably better than the draconian GOP proposal, a blended rate would likely shortchange states of billions in Medicaid financing that they otherwise would receive under a fully implemented health reform law beginning in 2014.

Faced with reduced federal funding, most cash-strapped states will have no choice but to ration healthcare services and further erode already dangerously low provider reimbursement rates


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