A plan put forth by the Texas Department of Health would tighten income eligibility requirements for the state's AIDS Drug Assistance Program, which provides free anti-HIV drugs to poor and uninsured state residents, a move that would cut about 4,200 people from the program, the Houston Chronicle reports. If the regulation is approved by the Board of Health, about 1,700 people will lose drug coverage beginning in January, with another 2,500 people cut from ADAP rolls by July. Currently the eligibility requirement is 200% of the federal poverty level, or about $17,700 for a single person. The proposed revision would lower the income level to 140% of the federal poverty level, or about $12,400 for an individual.
The eligibility revision was made to offset an estimated $37 million budget shortfall over the next three years for ADAP, mostly due to increasing demand for anti-HIV drugs as people with the disease live longer, growing numbers of HIV-positive people in the state, and rising medication costs. The Board of Health is expected to vote on the revision at its January meeting.
AIDS activists and some state lawmakers say the revised eligibility requirements will be disastrous for HIV-positive people in the state. "When you knock those people off [the program], you know what happens to them? They die," state representative Garnet Coleman told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "That's wrong. Straight-up wrong. It's a death sentence." Pamela Donnelly, associate executive director of the AIDS Outreach Center, which serves nine counties in the state, said, "I feel like they've put the cart before the horse. But let's see what we do get, and let's see then what corners we have to cut."