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APLA urges senators to filibuster Medicare bill

APLA urges senators to filibuster Medicare bill

AIDS Project Los Angeles on Thursday urged California's U.S. senators, Democrats Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, to filibuster the Medicare Prescription Drug Bill now working its way toward a Senate vote, claiming the legislation would reduce drug coverage for tens of thousands of HIV-positive Medicare enrollees. According to APLA, the bill severely restricts Medicaid drug coverage now available to an estimated 50,000 Medicare beneficiaries with AIDS. These low-income individuals, most of them on disability, are currently dually eligible for Medicare and Medicaid, and access HIV antiretroviral drugs through the Medicaid program. The new bill provides only two medications per "drug class" in the Medicare drug formulary. Effective HIV drug therapy requires access to a full range of antiretroviral drugs, including sometimes three or more medications in the same class. "APLA wholeheartedly supports a Medicare prescription-drug benefit," said APLA executive director Craig Thompson in a press statement. "However, the current bill will actually do harm by reducing access to medications that low-income people need to survive. And we are not talking about just a few people. Approximately 38% of APLA's 10,000 registered clients are eligible for Medicare." New York City's Gay Men's Health Crisis on Wednesday called for New York's U.S. senators--Charles Schumer and Hillary Clinton, both Democrats--to similarly filibuster the bill. The bill, drafted by congressional Republicans, recently received the backing of the American Association of Retired Persons, which plans to spend $7 million in advertisements supporting the legislation. Other senior groups, including the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, the Alliance for Retired Americans, and Families USA, oppose the bill, as do many Democratic lawmakers and the national AFL-CIO labor union. A vote on the measure is expected before the Senate adjourns next week for the year.

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