Report: Medicaid soon may cover early AIDS treatments
June 1, 1997
Web posted at: 2:15 p.m. EDT (1415 GMT)
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A new government proposal to expand
Medicaid would make it easier for low-income HIV-positive
patients to receive federal assistance before they develop
full-blown AIDS, The New York Times reported Sunday.
Clinton administration officials told the newspaper that they
will present the proposal to Congress soon. The initiative
would free the government to pay for potent, costly drugs
that block the development of AIDS.
Under current federal rules, if patients develop the deadly
disease and become disabled, they can qualify for Medicaid.
But patients typically are unable to obtain the new drugs,
including protease inhibitors, until they become severely ill
with AIDS or related ailments.
The new drugs cost from $8,000 to $16,000 a year.
Researchers recommend the use of such drugs soon after a
person has been infected with HIV, the virus that causes
AIDS. In clinical tests over the past 1 1/2 years, the drugs
have proved widely successful in halting the development of
Slowing spread of HIV
Allowing Medicaid to cover the cost of the drugs, the Times
reported, could save the government money by reducing the
spread of the virus and the need for hospital care.
"We believe that a person who's being treated is less
infectious, and therefore less likely to transmit the virus
than a person who is not being treated," Victor Zonana, a
spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services,
told the Times.
According to the newspaper, a summary of the department's
initiative said it will "assess whether eligibility for
Medicaid in the earlier stages of HIV infection is effective
in reducing Medicaid costs of care."
White House and federal health officials were quoted as
saying they would not ask Congress to change the current
Medicaid law, but would expand coverage by using authority
they already have to conduct and approve state demonstration
About half of the 217,000 Americans with AIDS will be on
Medicaid at some time, but many low-income patients have been
denied coverage because they are not sick enough to meet the
official test of disability, the Times said.
The Social Security Administration uses a strict definition
of disability that states a person must be "unable to engage
in any substantial gainful activity." Gaining disability
benefits usually leads to Medicaid coverage as well, the
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