Friday, April 17, 2015

The Affordable Care Act and the Ryan White Program for Persons with HIV/AIDS

By: Brandon M. Macsata, CEO, ADAP Advocacy Association

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), or the Affordable Care Act (ACA) – also known as Obamacare – continues to unfold and its overall impact is still yet unknown. Most of the law’s major provisions were phased in by January 2014, with other provisions phased in by 2020. The ACA has numerous implications generally on the United State’s health care delivery system, but more specifically on the supports and services afforded to people living with HIV-infection, or viral Hepatitis, under the Ryan White CARE Act. What’s more, ongoing Medicaid expansion (or lack thereof) and the implementation of insurance exchanges will also impact nearly all healthcare providers, as well as their patients.[1]

Unfortunately, people living with HIV-infection have experienced some of the unintended consequences of the law – including discriminatory practices limiting their access to care and treatment. As patients have obtained a basic understanding of the ACA’s provisions, they have also learned numerous ways to assist with their advocacy to combat such unlawful practices.

Cartoon of patient opening a box that reads, "Do It Yourself Insurance Exchange," with a telephone and manual falling out of the box. The manual reads, "Obamacare Handbook."

Among them, patients have received guidance from federal agencies on the law's intersection with existing public health programs, especially as its relates to HIV/AIDS and Viral Hepatitis populations. They acquired information about insurance “adverse selection.” And thanks to many advocacy and legal organizations, they have developed a greater understanding of potential impact discriminatory practices, as well as non-discrimination protections.

One such organization assisting patients is The AIDS Institute (TAI). Last year, TAI and the National Health Law Program (NHeLP) filed a complaint with the federal government against several health plans in Florida, accusing them of engaging in discriminatory practices against people living with HIV-infection. That complaint has already yielded positive results for patients, evidenced by Aetna (one of the companies named in the complaint) agreeing to reduce patient costs for HIV medications nationwide in the qualified health plan marketplace.

“Aetna’s announcement will help ensure that people living with HIV/AIDS throughout the country will have greater access to essential medicines at a more affordable cost,” said Michael Ruppal, Executive Director for The AIDS Institute. “However, there are still many other insurers who are charging patients excessive costs for their HIV medications and this does not impact a patient’s non-HIV medications or other beneficiaries with other health conditions. We look forward to working with Aetna and other insurers to address continuing barriers to care and treatment, including inadequate drug formularies, high cost co-insurance & deductibles, and restricted networks for people with HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, and other chronic health conditions.”[2]

Screenshot of website, "Find health coverage that works for you."

In an effort to paint a clearer picture of the ACA's impact on patients, TAI has launched a survey for people living with HIV-infection to share their experiences.

This survey is for people who are living with HIV/AIDS and have had an experience with their healthcare that they would like to share. We are especially interested in those individuals that have had changes to their healthcare occur since October 1, 2013. Ryan White, AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP), AIDS Insurance Continuation Program (AICP), Affordable Care Act - Marketplace Insurance Plans, Medicaid, Medicare programs are of particular interest.[3]

To complete the survey, CLICK HERE.


[1] ADAP Advocacy Association, "Impact of the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid Expansion & Insurance Exchanges on HIV/AIDS & Viral Hepatitis Services," November 6, 2013. 
[2] The AIDS Institute, "Aetna Agrees to Significantly Reduce Patient Costs," March 26, 2015.
[3] The AIDS Institute, "The Affordable Care Act and the Ryan White Program for Persons with HIV/AIDS," April 2015.