More than 150 people came to a public hearing Wednesday in Tampa to state their opposition to tougher eligibility requirements for the state AIDS Drug Assistance Program. ADAP currently helps about 9,600 low-income Floridians access HIV/AIDS drugs. In addition, 3,752 patients are on a waiting list to join the program, according to the National Alliance of State & Territorial AIDS Directors.
Advocates say the proposed changes would put ADAP’s help out of reach for many patients. State officials are discussing dropping the income allowable for participation - currently 400 percent of the federal poverty level, or $43,560 - to 200 percent of the poverty level, or $21,780.
Thomas Liberti, chief of the state Bureau of HIV/AIDS, was on hand for the hearing, as he was for earlier meetings in Miami and Tallahassee. He said lowering the income ceiling had not been brought forward as a formal proposal, but might be necessary. Last year, in addition to starting a waiting list, Florida’s ADAP cut its formulary of covered drugs from 100 to 50.
“We know 100 percent of people are opposed to this,” Liberti said of the possible eligibility restrictions. “We don’t want to take drugs away from people.”
Liberti said ADAP’s allocations from the federal government ($85 million) and the state ($9.5 million) have held steady for several years. Florida’s HIV/AIDS case count of about 135,000 patients has remained level, too. The number of people without health insurance, however, has risen dramatically.
The series of hearings will conclude with a second Miami meeting on Monday, May 9.
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