Press Release by Congresswoman Pelosi

Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi

Gephardt, Pelosi Lead Call for Expansion of Medicaid to Include Early Treatments for Low-Income People with HIV

August 3, 1998

Democratic Leader Richard Gephardt (D-MO), Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and 66 of their colleagues today sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala, urging her to expand Medicaid to low-income people who are HIV-positive but have not yet developed symptoms of HIV disease. "It is unconscionable to deny people living with HIV the drugs we know can help keep them well simply because they have no health insurance or are not yet sick enough to qualify for Medicaid," said Gephardt. "In light of what the latest research is telling us, I join my colleagues in the fervent hope that the Administration will quickly take the necessary steps to fill this unjustifiable gap in our current Medicaid policy."

Under current Medicaid regulations, people with HIV infection must become sick and disabled before they can receive benefits. Yet waiting for the disease to progress to this point runs counter to recommendations developed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and a distinguished panel of medical experts. They have advised early treatment with protease inhibitors -- before symptoms develop -- for many people in the early stages of HIV disease. While this does not guarantee that fatal complications will be averted or delayed, there is evidence to suggest it can keep people with HIV healthier for a longer time. "Powerful new drugs have given people with HIV renewed hope in fighting this disease. It is imperative that our government health care programs catch up with the recommendations of government health care experts," Pelosi said.

New research released at the just completed 12th World AIDS Conference in Geneva provides further evidence that treatment of HIV infection early in the course of disease is both medically beneficial and cost effective. A cost effectiveness study from the University of California, San Francisco, reports that, "expansion of the US Medicaid system to provide wider access to combination antiretroviral therapy would prevent thousands of deaths and AIDS diagnoses, leading to 14,500 more years of life for persons with HIV disease over five years." The study found that cost neutrality was within reach and that "the program is affordable from a federal perspective."

"While government researchers issue hopeful statements about the benefits of early therapy and news reports herald a new age for people with AIDS, Medicaid trails the science," Pelosi said. "We must act now to expand access to these very important drugs for low-income uninsured people with HIV."

Cosigners to the letter to Sec. Shalala include Reps.:

Nancy Pelosi			Sam Farr		José Serrano
Richard Gephardt		Louis Stokes		Anna Eshoo
David Bonior			Lois Capps		Harold Ford
Maxine Waters			Stephen Horn		Martin Meehan
Henry Waxman			Luis Gutierrez		Vic Fazio
Xavier Becerra			Martin Frost		Sheila Jackson-Lee
Fortney Pete Stark		Rosa DeLauro		Bennie Thompson
Patsy Mink			Robert Brady		Danny Davis	
Constance Morella		George Miller		Eleanor Holmes Norton
Tom Coburn			Nick Lampson		Elizabeth Furse
Jim McDermott			William Delahunt	Thomas Barrett
Maurice Hinchey			Lloyd Doggett		Bernard Sanders
Carrie Meek			Earl Hilliard		Nydia Velázquez
Robert Matsui			Nita Lowey		Zoe Lofgren	
Kevin Brady			Carolyn Maloney		Jerrold Nadler
Tom Lantos			Neil Abercrombie	Barbara Lee
Sidney Yates			Diana DeGette		Loretta Sanchez
Barney Frank			Edolphus Towns		Brad Sherman
Donald Payne			Esteban Torres		
Carlos Romero-Barceló		Ellen Tauscher		
Elijah Cummings			John Lewis			
James McGovern			Ken Bentsen			
Steny Hoyer			Gary Ackerman		
Charles Schumer	     		Lynn Woolsey		
Juanita Millender-McDonald	Bob Filner				

Att: Letter to Sec. Shalala

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