SPRINGFIELD Illinois Governor Pat Quinn released a proposed $35.6 million state budget on March 6 that would reduce state HIV/AIDS funding by $4.27 million, or 16 percent.
"Thanks to President Obama, many people with HIV will gain new health insurance coverage through the Affordable Care Act, providing partial relief to the state's AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP)," said David Ernesto Munar, President/CEO of the AIDS Foundation of Chicago. "Illinois has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reinvest ADAP savings to fund HIV prevention and service programs that will reduce new HIV cases and improve health outcomes."
Under the Governor's proposed budget, total state HIV spending would drop from $26.23 million in FY13 to $21.75 million in FY14. AFC has learned from sources at IDPH that the funding cut would come from ADAP, which provides life-saving medications to people with the disease.
In 2014, many current ADAP clients will transition to Medicaid or subsidized private insurance programs available through new online insurance marketplaces, also called exchanges. This shift will reduce the need for state spending on ADAP.
"HIV is a communicable disease," continued Munar. "The scientific evidence is clear that when people with HIV receive clinical care, treatment, and other essential services, the risk for further HIV transmission is substantially decreased."
"About half of people with HIV are not receiving medications or medical care," said Ramon Gardenhire, AFC's director of government relations. "Illinois should reinvest the savings from the ACA to connect people with HIV to medical care: culturally sensitive boots-on-the-ground outreach workers, substance abuse and mental health treatment resources, and stable housing and transportation options. Illinois should reinvest in these services since the unmet need is so great. Doing so will reduce new HIV cases and future medical spending."
If enacted, HIV funding would be cut for the third year in a row. Since 2011, Illinois has reduced state HIV funding by $9 million, or 30 percent.
"HIV funding cuts have resulted in dramatic decreases in the availability of HIV prevention, housing and supportive services across the state," said Gardenhire. "It's time for Illinois to stop this trend and fund targeted investments that will help lower the burden and cost of HIV upon the state."
To ensure that people with HIV continue to receive services, the General Assembly must immediately act to extend Medicaid coverage to all low-income people, including people with HIV.
Sponsored by State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago) and Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago), Senate Bill 26, pending in the Illinois House, would authorize Illinois to take advantage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to provide Medicaid to about 342,000 low-income Illinois citizens who are currently uninsured, including thousands who are living with HIV/AIDS. Thanks to health reform, Illinois will be able to offer Medicaid to this population at no expense to the state for the first three years, and in later years the state will never pay more than 10 percent of the coverage cost.
SB 26, if approved by the Illinois House, would shift costs for HIV medication from the state to the federal government, yielding savings to Illinois that could be used to strengthen HIV care and prevention efforts.
AFC, together with HIV/AIDS medical and community-based services organizations, calls on the Illinois General Assembly to reverse the proposed funding cuts and pass SB 26 to gain federal funding to provide HIV care through Medicaid.
AFC urges advocates to join us in Springfield to lobby for important HIV/AIDS issues in April and May of this year. Contact Lucy Baglin at email@example.com for more information on Medicaid advocacy.
Founded in 1985 by community activists and physicians, the AIDS Foundation of Chicago is a catalyst for local, national, and international action against HIV/AIDS.