A cure for AIDS is close, but can we pay for it?

By Emily Hutto

ProducersWEB


In its current state, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) will drastically improve the living conditions of AIDS patients, says an article by the Associated Press.

“While most working-age Americans have private health insurance, most people living with HIV do not. This is largely because most private insurance comes through employers, and many people living with HIV are unemployed,” says the article. It also explains that AIDS patients usually have lower paying, part-time jobs to accommodate the time they spend receiving medical treatment, if they are able to work at all.

Now that PPACA prohibits independent insurance providers from refusing to cover individuals with pre-existing health conditions, AIDS patients without health insurance will be able to purchase coverage through state-exchanges starting in 2014.

Changes to Medicaid that PPACA will bring also provide better benefits to HIV-positive people, according to the AP article. States will have to expand Medicaid coverage to people with income up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level. Currently, HIV-positive individuals only qualify for Medicaid if they are low-income and fit an eligibility category, such as being disabled. In essence, the article points out, the current health care system says you don’t qualify for Medicaid if you are low-budget and are HIV-positive – you have to also be disabled by the disease. So you must develop an infection like lymphoma to qualify.

Thirty percent of HIV patients receive Medicaid, says a recent article in USA Today. PPACA should significantly boost that number. According to aids.gov, more than one million U.S. residents are living with HIV, and someone is infected with disease every 9.5 minutes. People infected with HIV, says the USA Today article, are more likely to be low-income because they lack access to education about sex education, as well as funds for contraception and testing, which is why PPACA’s new Medicaid regulations could have such a positive effect for AIDS patients.

“[PPACA] will make Medicaid, for the first time, a health-care program for low-income people,” says the AP article.

That is, if state governments uphold these new parameters. The AP reminds readers that the governors of Texas and Florida have both publicly boasted that they won’t comply with PPACA to expand Medicaid eligibility.

Preventative measures, in any health care situation, will largely outweigh the costs of future treatment. Not to mention the recent news that AIDS researchers are actually close to finding a cure. The USA Today article reports, “Doctors can now prescribe drug cocktails that reduce the amount of AIDS virus in a patients' body to undetectable levels. Landmark research funded by the National Institutes of Health show that these patients are not only healthier, but virtually non-contagious.”

The article also quotes AIDS researcher Diane Havlir who asks about an AIDS cure, “Do we have the will to do it?" and "Who is going to pay for it?"

Politicians and voters are asking themselves the same.