Senate Approves Medicaid Cuts, Harms Hundreds of Thousands of Americans Living With HIV/AIDS

On December 21st, in a vote of 50 to 50, with Vice President Dick
Cheney casting the tie-breaking vote, the U.S. Senate approved the
budget reconciliation conference report containing billions in cuts to
Medicaid that put at risk the lives of hundred of thousands of Americans
living with HIV/AIDS; however, due to a Democratic point of order, the
conference report will now be sent back to the House of Representatives.
The budget package permits new premiums and deductibles, and higher
cost-sharing on Medicaid beneficiaries who already find themselves on
the edge of being able to seek quality care and treatment for their
HIV/AIDS. Medicaid is the nation's largest payer of HIV/AIDS care.

"On HIV and AIDS, Congress handed over authority to extremists with the
potential to harm thousands of Americans," said Human Rights Campaign
President Joe Solmonese."It is unacceptable to pull the rug out from
under hundreds of thousands of our neighbors living with HIV/AIDS and
simply say your government is not there for you. We should be focusing
on ways to improve these programs, not shoving them onto the cutting
room floor."

A provision in the Senate's version of the reconciliation bill was
stripped out in conference that would have given some states the option
to extend Medicaid coverage through a demonstration program to childless
adults with HIV who are currently ineligible for Medicaid until they
develop AIDS.

Currently, the law requires that all Medicaid beneficiaries be treated
fairly and have access to all of the medically necessary Medicaid
services their state provides. The budget reconciliation package changes
current law to provide new "flexibility" to states by allowing states to
discriminate against groups of Medicaid beneficiaries. States will now
be allowed to provide more services to some beneficiaries than others,
based on political or arbitrary considerations-instead of relying on the
professional judgments of health care providers about the necessity of
Medicaid services.

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