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Senate Passes $450 Million Smith Medicaid/HIV Treatment Amendment: Early Treatment for HIV Act (ETHA)
  Bill Provides Medicaid Coverage for Low-Income Sufferers
Posted: Thursday, November 3, 2005 3:29 PM
WASHINGTON, DC - During debate on the budget reconciliation act (S. 1932), the U.S. Senate passed an amendment sponsored by Senator Gordon Smith (R-OR) that gives needy individuals early access to HIV treatment. His amendment provides $450 million to states for demonstration projects extending Medicaid coverage to low-income, HIV positive Americans before they develop full-blown AIDS. In Oregon there are approximately 4500 people living with HIV/AIDS, an estimated 40% of whom do not receive care for their disease.
"It's unacceptable that most patients must become disabled before they can qualify for Medicaid coverage," Smith said. "In Oregon, there are approximately 150 new HIV infections each year, and we desperately need to provide these individuals with treatment."
Smith's amendment is based on legislation he introduced in February 2005 known as the Early Treatment for HIV Act (ETHA). That bill, similar to one Smith introduced in 2003, is supported by a wide range of organizations including the American Foundation for AIDS Research, the Human Rights Campaign, the Cascade AIDS Project, the Treatment Access Expansion Project, the AIDS Institute, and the American Academy of HIV Medicine.
In a study conducted by Pricewaterhouse Coopers it was determined that providing early intervention care significantly delays the progression of HIV, and that ETHA could reduce the death rate by 60% for those living with HIV.
"It's unacceptable that most patients must become disabled before they can qualify for Medicaid coverage"
Senator Gordon Smith
ETHA also provides states an enhanced federal Medicaid match that makes more federal money available for states that invest in treatments for HIV. This legislation helps states with struggling budgets, like Oregon, to provide medical treatment to low-income, HIV-positive people in need.
"The tragedy of HIV affects the lives of millions of people across the nation. Some get the care they need, but too many do not," said Smith. "This is literally a life and death issue, and early treatment can help many more Americans live longer healthier lives."
ETHA would provide states with the option of covering low-income HIV infected individuals as 'categorically needy'. In this regard, the Act is similar to the successful Breast and Cervical Cancer Treatment Act, also championed by Smith, which provides states the option to extend Medicaid coverage to women diagnosed with breast or cervical cancer.
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