Chicago Phoenix (03.07.13)
Gov. Pat Quinn presented the Illinois state budget on March 6, which reduces many 2014 state revenues because of the state’s $96 billion pension situation, and cuts funding for several HIV education services. Quinn’s $35.6 million proposed budget would cut HIV spending by 16 percent—from $26.23 million in 2013 to $21.75 million in 2014. According to the AIDS Foundation of Chicago (AFC), most of these cuts will be made to Illinois’ AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP), which provides medications to people with AIDS.
AFC is calling upon lawmakers to reverse the proposed reductions, as HIV funding has already been cut by 30 percent—$9 million—throughout the last two years. “HIV funding cuts have resulted in dramatic decreases in the availability of HIV prevention, housing, and supportive services across the state,” said Ramon Gardenhire, AFC’s director of government relations. The cuts will impact the availability of services for Illinois HIV patients; however, the cuts would coincide with the Affordable Care Act insurance coverage for patients, which would lessen some costs for ADAP. David Ernesto Munar, AFC’s president and chief executive officer, asserted that the Affordable Care Act savings should be reinvested to provide more funding for HIV services and should not be viewed as a way to offset the cuts. Munar declared that many HIV-infected persons will gain new health insurance coverage through the Affordable Care Act, which will then provide partial relief to Illinois’ ADAP, further stating that Illinois has a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reinvest ADAP savings to fund HIV prevention and service programs that will reduce new HIV cases and improve health outcomes.”
Besides promoting the savings of universal health insurance, AFC is asking state lawmakers to approve legislation that would extend Medicaid coverage to all low-income people, including people with HIV. Rep. Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago) and Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago) are sponsoring legislation that is pending in the Illinois General Assembly’s House Chamber. AFC stated that the bill would authorize Illinois to use federal funds through the Affordable Care Act to provide Medicaid to approximately 342,000 low-income, uninsured people, including thousands who are living with HIV/AIDS. The Medicaid coverage would cost the state no money during the first three years. The bill also would move HIV medication costs to the federal government, which would lead to savings that Illinois could use to invest in HIV care and prevention efforts.