What does that mean? In legislative terms, it means that the current law is likely (as in, very likely) to continue under the current law's framework and structure -- including appropriation levels. Putting the hysteria aside, it is nonetheless important for Ryan White stakeholders remain engaged to ensure that the "payor of last resort" safety net that the law provides remains intact, and robust funding accompanies it. Fortunately, coalitions such as the Ryan White Work Group, ADAP Coalition and the National ADAP Working Group (all of which the ADAP Advocacy Association is a member organization), are working to monitor this situation and propose meaningful advocacy strategies.
Of particular interest to most Ryan White stakeholders is the fate of the current law's "Hold Harmless" provision, which was added during a previous reauthorization. The Hold Harmless provision initially continued the previous 95% rate for the first two fiscal years, but increased to 100% of fiscal year 2010 funding for each of the fiscal years 2011 and 2012. For fiscal year 2013, the amount will be 92.5% of the previous fiscal year’s grant. This hold harmless continues to apply to both Part A and Part B grants.
On July 16th, Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) introduced H.R.2699. The legislation would "extend the hold harmless provisions of the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program pending reauthorization of the overall program." The legislation has no co-sponsors and it also reportedly doesn't have the support of the majority staff on the House Committee on Energy & Commerce, Subcommittee on Health. In other words, Rep. Pallone's legislation probably isn't going anywhere in the Congress.
According to Bill McColl of AIDS United and Co-Chair of the Ryan White Work Group, "We are aware that hold harmless will be a major issue for many people in the HIV community and will be trying to develop points of agreement as the Congress works on a continuing resolution or appropriations bill in FY 2014."
Meanwhile, ADAPs have already experienced a major systemic shock between the changes in the funding formula, and the pending cuts from Sequestration. Data from the Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA) demonstrates the changes between this year's number with last year's totals.
(Editor's Note: The totals are calculated from the actual reduction from last year per locality after subtracting accounting adjustments and carryovers from prior years). The numbers paint a picture that should keep Ryan White stakeholders on the edge of their seats.
PART A FUNDING: (Avg. Cut 7.12%)
The Part A spreadsheet encompasses all Part A areas in the country. This section of funding had experienced a few changes, including:
1) There was a new TGA in the Part A funding stream (i.e., Columbus, Ohio) , As a result, the EMA/TGA pie had to be divided up with one more additional locality.
2) Sequester had played a varying effect per locality as reflected by the percentages.
3) Shifting trends in epidemiology and formulas towards the South; therefore the cuts were somewhat cushioned and less drastic.
PART B FUNDING: (Avg. Cut 5.61%)
The Part B Basic Earmark spreadsheet is the bulk (90-95%) of the Federal Grant to the States for ADAPs.
1) The Part B Grant for Medical Services has not been broken out yet as that will take some time to separate and compile that data as the Part B grants are multi-layered.
2) Again, Sequester had played a big factor in the reduction but the Southern States were saved the brunt of the Sequester because of a new formula change.
Eddie Hamilton, who heads up the ADAP Educational Initiative, summarized it best: "The grassroots do need to be afraid of sequester 2.0 coming up as it looks like Congress won’t be able to change that anytime soon."
In light of the current political climate on Capitol Hill, practically everyone with an interest in protecting HIV/AIDS supports and services is taking nothing to chance. Considering that the Ryan White law -- and especially the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) -- has long enjoyed bipartisan support, education efforts to remind lawmakers of its importance are ongoing, including a new web video released by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation.
[Photo: AHF Ryan White Video]
One thing is for certain, prematurely opening up a popular law that doesn't require reauthorization could prove disastrous in the hyper-partisan, hyper-political environment that has consumed the current Congress. Any suggestion to the contrary simply ignores the political realities that exist today. A more cautious approach might be pursuing a legislative technical fix.
The reality of the situation is best summarized by Bill Arnold, President & CEO of the Community Access National Network (CANN): "The issue boils down to congressional staff has no appetite to enter the debate over a full reauthorization until they have data after Affordable Care Act implementation, and can assess the impacts nationally, as well as locally."
Arnold suggests that the data won’t be available until well after “opening day” on January 1, 2014, and it will likely take all of that same year to clean and sort through the data. "That argues for a serious attempt to reauthorize in 2015, especially since it will also be past congressional election," Arnold said.
The bottom line is Ryan White stakeholders must remain vigilant in their efforts to maintain the nation's oldest and only law solely dedicated to providing life-sustaining supports and services to people living with HIV/AIDS in the United States. No one could disagree that the need exists. How the "community" achieves that objective is open to interpretation.
 Department of Public Health, Los Angeles County, California, "SECTION-BY-SECTION DESCRIPTION OF RYAN WHITE HIV/AIDS TREATMENT EXTENSION ACT OF 2009,” December 2009.