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NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—As the population of those living with HIV and AIDS in New Jersey continues to grow, funding for the AIDS Drug Distribution Program is likely to see severe cuts under the Christie Administration’s proposed budget.
The AIDS Drug Distribution Program (ADDP), offers a variety of FDA-approved anti-retroviral medications for low-income participants who do not exceed 500% of the federal poverty level.
Anti-retroviral medications afford people with the disease to live longer, healthier lives, and have reduced HIV transmission tremendously.
Currently 7,800 people are enrolled in the program. Gov. Christie’s budget, which begins in July, only includes funds for 4,500; over a 40 percent decrease.
The proposed cuts are based on the idea that the under the Affordable Care Act, the Medicaid expansion and healthcare marketplace insurance plans will reduce the number of program participants and the need for funding.
“This is about transitioning ADDP clients who are uninsured into health coverage through the Medicaid expansion,” said Donna Leusner, spokeswoman for the state Health Department.
Prior to the Affordable Care Act, people with HIV/AIDS could be denied or dropped from private insurance companies.
Now, they are guaranteed the right to purchase a plan and cannot be dropped due to their status.
Opponents of the cuts contend that, as of yet, there is little data showing the extent that the transition from ADDP to Medicaid and private healthcare plans is occurring.
According to Kathy O’Brien, executive director of New Brunswick’s Hyacinth AIDS Foundation, “There are cuts all around and nothing is stable. I wouldn’t make any more cuts until there is more certainty.”
Several key players in field feel that the cuts are happening too soon into the transition, and that some clients will be left without the necessary medication.
This is not the first major change for the program.
In 2009, the Christie administration cut $7.9 million from the program by sharply tightening the income eligibility requirements from $54,150 to $32,490. The funding, however, was supplemented by rebates from pharmaceutical companies and a federal grant program.
With the new budget fast approaching and funding constantly changing and shifting, ADDP recipients are being urged to apply for Medicaid or enroll in one of the private plans offered through the healthcare marketplace.
In New Brunswick, both the Middlesex County Board of Social Services (181 How Lane) and Eric B.Chandler Health Center (277 George Street, 123 Church Street) are prepared to assist with the application and enrollment process.
For information about the Medicaid expansion and private healthcare plans as well as help finding locations that offer in-person assistance, go to: https://localhelp.healthcare.gov/
Charlie is the founder and editor of New Brunswick Today, and the winner of the Awbrey Award for Community-Oriented Local Journalism. He is a proud Rutgers University journalism graduate, a community organizer, and a former independent candidate for mayor of New Brunswick.