Medicaid Value

Medicaid is big and growing — but should it be reined in? Alexandrta Bachert, Staff writer for MedPage, discussed the value of Medicaid and I thought that it would be important in light of the budget and new health care policy cutting back on Mecicaid. The House Republicans and the White House have recently proposed massive reductions in the Medicaid program, which could shave more than $1 trillion from projected expenditures over the next 10 years.

Much of the debate over these cuts has centered around the effects on children and the poor, but about 40% of the Medicaid budget pays for long-term care for the elderly, many of whom are poor only on paper. In this edition of “Friday Feedback,” experts discuss the critical role Medicaid plays in the healthcare system, particularly for America’s increasingly numerous seniors, and what might happen if funding is slashed.

To what extent has Medicaid gone off the rails, relative to its original intent? Or was the original intent faulty?

Diane Rowland, ScD, Kaiser Family Foundation: The original intent was that Medicaid would be a companion to Medicare in meeting the health needs of the nation’s poor and disadvantaged population — a role it has filled well.

Hemi Tewarson, JD, MPH, National Governors Association: Medicaid is now the largest public payer of health insurance, covering 1 in 5 Americans in 2016 and half of all births nationally. The magnitude of the program and its complicated structure has certainly evolved since the program’s inception. However, the program is still serving our nation’s most vulnerable populations, through a federal-state partnership, which was the original intent of the program.

Leighton Ku, PhD, MPH, George Washington University: Medicaid always had a broad mission to serve the needy, including low-income children, adults, the elderly, and the disabled. It has kept that mission, but broadened it over time as it became necessary — as we learned of the importance of home and community-based care and of difficulties that low-income adults have getting insurance.

Sara Rosenbaum, JD, George Washington University: Medicaid’s purpose always has been to help people gain access to medically necessary care. Over a half century, Congress has repeatedly and steadily expanded the range of people in need who can qualify for Medicaid. What makes it so unique is its ability to evolve over time. There is nothing about the adult expansion that in any way is at cross-purposes with its original “intent.”

Tom Buchmueller, PhD, University of Michigan: I wouldn’t describe Medicaid as going off the rails. Going back to the program’s origins, it was political considerations that led to Medicare being a universal program and Medicaid being means-tested. Very quickly, Medicare became a cherished and politically sacrosanct institution, while Medicaid has struggled for political support. But now that Medicaid is the larger program in terms of enrollment, we need to recognize it for what it is: a critical part of the healthcare system.

Kenneth Brummel-Smith, MD, Florida State University: I don’t think it has. The original intent was to help states provide medical care to poor residents. Prior to 1965, old and poor people were more likely to die from treatable conditions than after Medicare and Medicaid were passed. The problem with Medicaid is that the states (and the feds to some degree) have never put enough cars on the tracks to handle the need.

Chris Pope, Manhattan Institute: The original intent of Medicaid was somewhat nebulous. The program has always given enormous discretion to states – in terms of which services are covered, who is eligible for them, and how they are delivered. That said, the program has been expanded by Congress over time, and the 1999 Olmstead Supreme Court decision greatly expanded the entitlement to long-term care in the home.

Matt Salo, National Association of Medicaid Directors: Medicaid didn’t set out to be the largest payer of long-term care in the country, but since Medicare doesn’t offer a comprehensive benefit; we’re there to pick it up. Medicaid probably should be “less necessary” in the healthcare system than it is today, but the fault doesn’t lie within Medicaid and that certainly doesn’t mean that Medicaid is broken and needs knee-jerk fixing. It means that the broader healthcare system is broken. To really fix Medicaid, you have to ensure that the roles it plays today are adequately and affirmatively picked up somewhere else.

How much of a problem is it that so much of eldercare is now dependent on Medicaid?

Brummel-Smith: It’s huge and going to get bigger. The aging of the population means more will need help with medical care and the older population is high consumers of healthcare. Here’s the paradox of providing good care — people live longer which means they’ll need more long-term services and supports. They don’t want to buy long-term care insurance, or they can’t afford it. And the size of families is decreasing meaning they’ll be fewer family caregivers. And we have an anti-immigration attitude, yet immigrants are the main people who are willing to work in these jobs. A perfect storm.

Buchmueller: The patchwork system we have for financing long-term care has many problems that will only become more challenging as the population ages. It is too bad that we are spending so much time and energy fighting about Obamacare — and trying to undo its real successes — instead of trying to address the issue of long-term care and other real issues that the U.S. healthcare system faces.

Pope: Family has always taken most of the responsibility for caring for older adults, largely uncompensated, and often at substantial personal cost. This remains the case, but families are more fragmented than they used to be and people are moving further for work — this increases the need for paid care. There will not be enough money for the government to cover all long-term care services for everyone, and so it is essential to limit Medicaid long-term care to those who have no other sources of assistance, and find ways of leveraging alternative resources wherever possible.

Tewarson: As Medicare and other commercial plans do not cover most nursing facility services and home and community based services, Medicaid is often the only option and as a result, is now the single largest payer of long-term services and supports (LTSS) in the U.S. If federal Medicaid funding was capped, states may need to consider different options, which could include reducing the number of individuals receiving LTSS in states that have a rapidly growing elderly population.

Rowland: Medicaid was always intended to help those on Medicare who were low-income and needed assistance with filling Medicare’s gaps — especially for long-term services. Because efforts to broaden long-term services beyond Medicaid have not succeeded, Medicaid remains the primary source of help for elders in nursing homes or needing help with long-term care in the community.

George Grossberg, MD, Saint Louis University: People are too dependent on Medicaid to pay for long-term care, especially nursing home care. Far too few have long-term care insurance or use family resources or save over a lifetime to pay for needed long-term care in the future. This places an inordinate burden on taxpayers, especially with our booming older adult population.

As for the rest of Medicaid, with the growing cost due mainly to the increasing costs of healthcare, won’t budget cuts simply deprive the poor of access to care?

Brummel-Smith: Absolutely. The biggest concern is that these folks are not good advocates for themselves — they are sick, frail, and often demented. I’m afraid that the government’s response will be following the words of Ebeneezer Scrooge — “They had better die and decrease the surplus population.”

Grossberg: Yes. Medicaid is insurance for the poor. Medicaid cuts will hurt those without personal/family resources the most, whether children or adults.

Daniel Derksen, MD, Arizona Center for Rural Health: You don’t save money by throwing millions off of coverage. That strategy shifts costs to states, to individuals and their families, and to physicians, hospitals, clinics and nurses through uncompensated and charity care. It strains credulity to cut almost a trillion dollars of federal funding to state Medicaid programs over the next 10 years, and claim that bill gives states more autonomy.

Joanne Lynn, MD, Altarum Institute: Cuts in Medicaid for the disabled elderly mean that people with no other options will be desperate before they get help, and the help will be inadequate. We will nearly triple the number of frail elderly Americans in the first half of this century. When we are old and frail, we will most likely have few financial resources and volunteer caregivers. The country should be making plans for an aging population and building more reliable and efficient systems in the few years before the Boomer generation starts hitting their years of disability. Simply cutting Medicaid won’t accomplish that.

Stephanie Woolhandler, MD, MPH, Hunter College: Rising Medicaid costs have been due to a large extent to the increasing number of people covered by that program. As employer-based insurance covered a shrinking share of the population, Medicaid filled the gap. Cuts to Medicaid are likely to result in both worse quality of care for those who remain covered, and cuts in the number covered. Many will suffer.

Rowland: With rising health costs and a growing elderly populating, reductions in the federal financing of Medicaid will place serious strains on state’s ability to maintain coverage and services for their low-income population. Both coverage and access to care are at risk.

Rosenbaum: Medicaid’s costs in the coming years are heavily driven by rising enrollment. In terms of covering the poor, Medicaid is the most cost effective means of doing so — 50% lower than private insurance for the same basket of services. Those who qualify for Medicaid because they are poor will go without access to affordable coverage if benefits are taken away. Just compare the uninsured rate among the poor in non-expansion states to that for the poor in expansion states. All of our gains will be lost.

Ku: It is very clear that Medicaid costs per person grow more slowly than per person costs in private insurance and Medicare. Medicaid is already very efficient and pays less than other forms of insurance. Federal efforts to shift costs to states will generally be problematic for states, which must balance their budgets. It may be possible to modify benefits or payment rates to become more efficient, but this is hard to do and takes time, trial, and assessment. It’s not clear that conservative politicians have the patience or temperament to figure out what works best while harming the fewest number of beneficiaries.

“Medicaid probably should be ‘less necessary’ in the healthcare system than it is today, but the fault doesn’t lie within Medicaid and that certainly doesn’t mean that Medicaid is broken and needs knee-jerk fixing.” — Matt Salo, of the National Association of Medicaid Directors, on the current debate over whether Medicaid has grown too big.                                                                                                                               “The scientists, the physicians in our country are under assault with this Trump budget.” — Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), addressing a rally organized by the American Thoracic Society in Washington. Providers are now asking- how much pain will per capita caps in Medicaid bring?                                                                                                                        The administration released what it calls a “Taxpayer First” budget on Tuesday. “This is, I think, the first time in a long time that an administration has written a budget through the eyes of the people who are actually paying the taxes,” White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney told reporters in a briefing on Monday. The plan was crafted with a skeptical eye toward programs that serve the needy. Over a decade, it calls for hundreds of billions of dollars in cuts to Medicaid, food stamps and disability benefits. Marie Lee, last week, reported that the end of Medicaid as an entitlement program is a coming, provider sand political observers say. Now the question is how much will the federal government seek to reduce its spending on the insurance program that covers 70 million people—and how much will senators listen to providers who say that care could ultimately become unattainable for people if the House version of a per capita cap is approved. 
The American Health Care Act, passed by the House in early May, aims to cut federal spending on Medicaid by $834 billion by 2026, and it’s hard to know exactly how that will play out for patients and providers, said Grady Health System CEO John Haupert.
“You would have to look at every channel Medicaid flows through,” he said. “Long-term care. Outpatient—what will be covered? What won’t? It has to come from somewhere.”
Grady sees 650,000 visits each year at six clinics and a specialty HIV/AIDS clinic, and has 27,000 inpatient admissions. It also has a 300-bed skilled-nursing facility.Medicaid covers the vast majority of patients in the nursing home, and 30% of all patients are enrolled in the program.
What he knows is that Georgia isn’t going to step in and increase funding to replacethe declining federal share.
Combined state and federal spending on Medicaid in Georgia is about $4,000 a person, 48th in the country. “There’s a reason why we’re 48th, put it that way,” Haupert said of the state’s willingness to spend on medical care for the poor. 
Cleveland’s MetroHealth system has about 280,000 patient visits a year, with half covered by Medicaid. Dr. Akram Boutros, CEO of the public hospital and its health system, fears that what will be left for Medicaid will not be enough to cover the cost of treating the population, which tends to have a higher disease burden than the general population. 
Boutros understands that providers need to find ways to bend the cost curve, whether in Medicaid or any other patient group, noting that the health system did a medical home demonstration with 28,000 Medicaid expansion patients in 2013 that resulted in $41 million in reduced costs. Ohio cut payments for outpatient Medicaid services by 5% in 2016.
“And remember,” he said, “We’ve been through this before. The American hospital system was asked to take Medicare cuts to fund Medicaid expansion.”
Katherine Hayes, director of health policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center, agreed. “Providers were asked to pay for a lot of the health reform, and now they’re paying for it again—more than paying for it again—with less coverage.”
Hayes, who worked for both Democrats and a moderate Republican senator in her time on the Hill, said the structure of a per capita cap isn’t necessarily a problem, it’s how much the federal government aims to reduce its share of spending.
“When you are putting in $834 billion in Medicaid cuts, you cannot make up the difference by scaling back eligibility of the Medicaid expansion,” she said.
Georgia never did a Medicaid expansion, which Grady estimates would have brought $25 million in revenue to the system. Still, Grady reduced its uncompensated care by $68 million, going from the equivalent of 41% of total revenue to now 28%. The system hired navigators to get qualified patients enrolled in Medicaid.
Because the ACA’s phase-out of disproportionate-share hospital payments was delayed, Grady still receives $80 million a year. The phase-out would have reduced it by $45 million a year.
To soften the blow of Medicaid cuts, House GOP leaders would make disproportionate-share payments permanent, for a nationwide price tag of $43 billion. Haupert said that would not nearly make up for the effects of the per capita cap.
When he was lobbying in Washington against the AHCA, he asked a Georgia Republican lawmaker why the savings couldn’t come both from Medicare and from Medicaid. He said the member replied: “If you mess with Medicare, you don’t get re-elected; if you mess with Medicaid, no one really cares. ”
Haupert said as he sees the political backlash against the AHCA, it seems that sentiment’s not totally wrong. Nearly all of the focus has been on the individual market, which is 4% to 5% of his system’s patients. Will people in the individual market who are sick have access to insurance they can afford to buy? Will modest-income older customers be able to buy plans?
He said he knows many people whose parents’ nursing home or other long-term care costs have exhausted their savings, ultimately sending them to Medicaid. Most people never think that will be them, he said, and many wrongly assume Medicare pays for assisted living and nursing home stays.
Still, Haupert believes senators are open to hearing from providers about what kinds of changes are too radical for the system.
“I think in general the Senate is doing a bit more due diligence around this,” he said. “I still sense this high level of pressure to get it done, get it done. When you’re in a hurry, that’s when you make mistakes.”
Hayes said she believes providers’ lobbying will make a difference. And, she said, senators are paying attention to the Congressional Budget Office’s scoring that showed the changes to the ACHA did little to move the dial on the number of people who would become uninsured. The most recent report estimated that 23 million people would lose coverage by 2026; scoring of the original bill in March put the number at 24 million.
Besides the direct financial implications for providers, the potential loss of coverage poses another challenge, says Dr. Nick Turkal, president and CEO of Aurora Health Care, a 15-hospital system based in Milwaukee. “The other thing that concerns me is that we’ll be going back to people coming to the emergency department in a crisis rather than getting the care they need in preventive services and primary-care services. That’s not an efficient way of getting care,” he said.
Haupert said he hopes the per capita cap allows below-average spending states to catch up to more generous states, or at least that there will be special consideration for safety-net systems like his. For Grady, the cuts to Medicare were very minor, just $8 million in the last four years. “Our margin, with county support, is around 4%,” he said, and they received $55 million from the counties they serve last year. “Without county support we’d be at about a negative 1%.”
He said when he talks with county officials about what’s happening in Washington, he can see they fear if the federal government steps back, then the bill will come due first to states, and then, they’re asking themselves, “Is this going to land in our lap?”

So, budgeting is going to impact a number of programs in all areas including health care. We need to look carefully at where the money goes and whether it is worth decreasing those programs that serve as safety nets. If we want to cover all we need to come to grips with the fact that some where we are going to find a way to pay for it all and maybe lowering taxes will impact all programs as well as health care. What other ways to we have to pay for 24 million people who need financial assistance? Think about it and yes I will be discussing this aspect further in my answer to our health care dilemma.

Happy Memorial Day to all and remember why we have set aside this day- to remember those who gave their lives for all of us., to protect our freedoms..

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The facts are in – TrumpCare is dangerous and destructive

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has finally released their report on TrumpCare, the bill that passed out of the U.S. House of Representatives on May 4. Yeah. You read that right. The U.S. House passed TrumpCare before they knew what it cost or how it would affect health insurance.

And now we know why. The facts are clear. The American Health Care Act is dangerous and destructive.

The CBO tells us that the bill will strip 23 million people of their health insurance. We already knew that the bill completely guts protections for people with pre-existing conditions and makes devastating cuts to Medicaid. All while providing massive tax cuts to the wealthy and giant corporations.

But the fight is not over. The Senate now has to pass a bill, and it will then likely have to go to back to the House for a final vote.

WE CAN STILL STOP THIS.

Here are three things you can do NOW to make your voice heard:

Call Gov. Rauner at 312-814-2121 and demand that he publicly oppose the American Health Care Act, which will cost Illinois billions of dollars in Medicaid funding and thousands of jobs.
Call your member of Congress at 1-866-877-3303 and demand that they publicly oppose the American Health Care Act.
Forward this immediately to 10 friends and family members in Illinois, especially if they live outside of Chicago. You can also share these steps on social media using #ilsaveaca
We have asked a lot of you, but it is only because you are making a difference. Your Member of Congress is crucial in this fight and they need to hear from you again!

AIDS United Responds to Fiscal Year 2017 Omnibus Appropriations Bil

 

AIDS United acknowledges that the Fiscal Year 2017 omnibus appropriations bill, released last night, provides continuity of HIV funding for most domestic programs. This is an important development for maintaining our progress towards the national goals and priorities of reducing new HIV infections, increasing access to care and improving health outcomes for people living with HIV, and reducing HIV-related health disparities.

While most HIV programs will see level funding in the budget, AIDS United is concerned that a $4 million cut to Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program Part C clinical providers and a $5 million cut affecting the budget to fight sexually transmitted infections will diminish our response to HIV and health care, particularly given the increasing cases of sexually transmitted infections, such as syphilis, among men who have sex with men.

“Knowing that Congress plans to keep funding intact for most HIV efforts is reassuring, but we urge Congress to also ensure that Part C clinical providers and our response to sexually transmitted infections are fully funded,” said AIDS United President & CEO Jesse Milan, Jr.

AIDS United is particularly appreciative that Congress listened to the voices of people living with and affected by HIV in increasing funding for the Housing Opportunities for People With AIDS (HOPWA) program by $21 million. “Housing is fundamental to ensuring that people living with HIV live longer and healthier lives and we thank Congress for recognizing the importance of this program by securing its current stability,” said Milan.


About AIDS United: AIDS United’s mission is to end the AIDS epidemic in the U.S., through strategic grant-making, capacity building, formative research and policy. AIDS United works to ensure access to life-saving HIV/AIDS care and prevention services and to advance sound HIV/AIDS-related policy for U.S. populations and communities most impacted by the epidemic. To date, our strategic grant-making initiatives have directly funded more than $104 million to local communities, and have leveraged more than $117 million in additional investments for programs that include, but are not limited to HIV prevention, access to care, capacity building, harm reduction and advocacy. aidsunited.org

House and the Administration Begin to Show Their Hands

February 23, 2017

House Republicans Unveil a Health Care “Policy Menu”; Trump Department of Health and Human Services Proposes First Major Health Care Regulation

 

Although there is still no specific ACA repeal and replace proposal from the hill, both Congressional Republicans and the Trump Administration released documents last week articulating their approach to replacing the ACA and addressing concerns with the Marketplaces in the meantime. Congressional Republicans released a Health Care Policy Brief that is intended to serve as a menu of potential elements for a forthcoming ACA replacement bill. This Brief includes elements that have been found in previous ACA replacement proposals and that present concerns for access to care. Further, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released a proposed rule entitled “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act; Market Stabilization” (proposed rule), which is intended to help stabilize the Marketplaces until an ACA replacement is completed. Unfortunately, some of its changes may limit access to care for vulnerable individuals and make the Marketplaces less friendly to those living with chronic illnesses and disabilities. Advocates should be sure to understand both documents as well as send comments on the proposed rule to HHS by March 7, 2017.

Advocates Should:

1. Review the Health Care Policy Brief released by House Republicans last week to better understand which ideas are popular among Congressional Republicans and likely to make it into any ACA repeal and replace proposal.

2. Understand the proposed Market Stabilization regulation released by the Department of Health and Human Services and how it will impact access to care in the 2018 qualified health plans.

3. Submit comments on the proposed rule to HHS urging them to consider the impact the proposed regulations will have on access to care for vulnerable individuals.

House Republicans Unveil Health Care Policy Brief

On February 16, 2017, after a closed-door meeting, House Republicans unveiled a policy brief and resource document to explain major elements of their plan to repeal and replace key programs and protections of the ACA. House Leadership is terming this strategy “repeal plus.” The policy brief should not be considered an actual legislative proposal but rather a “menu” of replacement ideas such as tax credits for purchasing health care, health savings accounts, and high risk pools. Part of the intention of this document is to encourage Congressional Republicans, who have found it difficult to coalesce around a health care policy strategy, to find consensus on these issues. Unfortunately, many of the components of this “repeal plus” strategy would curb access to care for vulnerable individuals, including those living with chronic illnesses and disabilities.

 

When The HIV Community Speaks, Congress Better Learn to Listen

 

If the Republican majority in Congress, emboldened by its control of both chambers and the White House, thought it would be easy to roll back health reform and other progressive gains, they have begun to learn a lesson taught to Obama early on, that it is easier to articulate hope than it is to affect change. Over the first few weeks of Mr. Trump’s presidency, a massive and in many ways spontaneous resistance movement has formed all across the country, with millions of people taking to the streets to express their unwillingness to tolerate a White House and a Congress that pursues policies that are anti-woman, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, and would turn our social safety net to tatters.

One of the policies that has received some of the most vocal and passionate opposition has been the repeal and as-yet-unspecified replacement of the Affordable Care Act Repealing the ACA is a policy goal that served as the Republican Party’s white whale under the Obama administration, but one which their rhetoric and desire to implement have lagged in recent weeks. The lack of enthusiasm to promptly repeal the ACA is due to congressional Republican’s inability to design a replacement plan that doesn’t strip 18 million Americans of their health insurance in a year’s time and, perhaps more importantly, the fear of the collective outrage of millions of Americans should their health care be taken from them.

Over the past few weeks, numerous stories have been circling around both traditional and social media, showing Representatives going to extreme measures to avoid the wrath of a public that is rightfully incensed by plans to block grant Medicaid and tear apart the ACA with no concrete plans on how to sufficiently replace it. Whether it’s sneaking out of an event via a side exit or simply refusing to engage in town halls due to the anger of their constituents, members of Congress are clearly unnerved by the breadth and the intensity of the protests that have greeted them in their home districts. In fact, House Republicans were so shaken by the backlash against the prospect of ACA repeal that they convened a closed-door meeting this past Tuesday to discuss how to “protect themselves” from protesters.

It may not feel like it at times, but the power of collective resistance and protest is proving unparalleled in affecting change. If we are to save the ACA, or at least ensure that its most vital  benefits survive in a replacement plan, people living with HIV and those who advocate alongside them are going to have to engage in sustained, vocal opposition to any politician who tries to snatch our health care from us. This means suiting up and showing up to town halls and rallies, even when we don’t feel like going. It means calling your members of Congress at their offices and refusing to take no for an answer when you’re told a line is busy or a mailbox is full. The HIV community’s opposition to the destruction of the ACA must be unrelenting because the only way our elected officials will act in our best interest is if they are provided with no alternative.

Yes, changing the will of Congress may seem daunting, but each individual action on the road from where we are to where we aim to be is one step closer. One of the first steps you can take is to commit to meeting with your members of Congress and letting them know the repeal of the ACA is unacceptable. For the week beginning February 20, both the Senate and the House will be out of session and in their home districts and states. Many of them will be hosting town halls or have open hours for visiting and we must make sure that our presence is acutely felt. It is important to remember that they are beholden to us and that the amount of power they wield is indirectly proportional to degree to which we are politically engaged.

If you click here, you will find a substantial, but by no means comprehensive spreadsheet that lists the office hours and scheduled events for many members of Congress in their home districts and states in the near future. Use this list and any other resources you can find to plan an action during Presidents’ Day weekend and the days that follow. Make sure that, whether it’s in person or over the phone, your members of Congress are incapable of ignoring the needs of people living with HIV and all Americans living with chronic diseases.

Question them.
Tell your story.

Share your concerns and ensure that your voice is heard and that the provision of quality health care is nonnegotiable if they want to keep their job for long. And, if you want to continue with your HIV advocacy after the actions around Presidents’ Day, there’s no better way to do so than to register for AIDSWatch, the largest annual HIV/AIDS advocacy event in America. This year, AIDSWatch is more important than ever and we need your help more than ever if we’re going to make Congress recognize the possibility and importance of ending the AIDS epidemic and protecting the policies that allow people living with HIV to get access to quality, affordable care.

Posted By: AIDS United, Policy Department – Thursday, February 09, 2017

HIV Infection Numbers Drop For First Time in Decades, But Not Everyone Benefits

 

For the first time since the mid-1990s, the official estimate of annual HIV infections, or incidence, in the United States has decreased notably. According to a study released by the Centers for Disease Control earlier this week, HIV incidence dropped 18% in recent years, going from an estimated 45,700 infections in 2008 to 37,600 in 2014. This reduction in new HIV infections—the first official one in nearly two decades—is a welcome development at a time when good news in health care is becoming hard to come by with the specter of Affordable Care Act repeal looming in Congress.

The study’s findings had their share of troubling aspects as well. The undeniable progress that was made in the fight against HIV infection in America in recent years was not distributed evenly. The largest amounts of reductions in HIV incidence over the 6-year period covered by the study came from heterosexuals and people who inject drugs, who saw their new HIV infections decline by 36% and 56% respectively. Slightly smaller decreases were also seen among certain age groups of gay and bisexual men, with a 26% drop for gay and bisexual men between the ages of 35 and 44, and an 18% drop for gay and bisexual men between the ages of 13 and 24.

Unfortunately there were several populations who saw their new HIV infections remain stable or increase over the course of the study. The HIV incidence among black gay and bisexual men stayed at the still alarmingly high number of 10,100 new infections at the beginning and end of the 6-year period, while there were increases among Latino gay and bisexual men, and gay and bisexual men between the ages of 25 and 34. Latino gay and bisexual men saw a 20% increase in HIV incidence between 2008 and 2014 while gay and bisexual men between the ages of 25 and 34 experienced a 35% increase in HIV incidence over the same period. Similarly, the South continued to be overrepresented in terms of HIV incidence, as the 37% of the US population that lives in the South accounted for 50% of new HIV infections in 2014.

There is reason for cautious celebration in the results of this study, as any significant decrease in new HIV infections should be lauded. But, with the rise in HIV incidence for portions of the population and a health care system currently in flux, it’s important that we recognize that even more vigilant prevention efforts are needed in the future if we are to maintain and improve upon this progress.

Posted By: AIDS United, Policy Department – Friday, February 17, 2017

5 Things To Know About Rep. Tom Price’s Health 

Rep. Tom Price has introduced his own alternative to the Affordable Care Act four times. The legislation provides an idea of how he might lead the Department of Health And Human Services.

Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Georgia Rep. Tom Price has been a fierce critic of the Affordable Care Act and a leading advocate of repealing and replacing the 2010 health care law.

Price, an orthopedic surgeon from the suburbs of Atlanta, introduced his own legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare in the current Congress and the three previous sessions. Price’s plan, known as the Empowering Patients First Act, was the basis for a subsequent health care proposal unveiled by House Speaker Paul Ryan, with Price’s endorsement, in June.

Price’s major complaint about the ACA is that it puts the government in the middle of the doctor-patient relationship.

“They believe the government ought to be in control of health care,” Price said in June at the American Enterprise Institute event where Ryan unveiled theRepublican proposal to replace Obamacare. “We believe that patients and doctors should be in control of health care,” Price continued. “People have coverage, but they don’t have care.”

Now that President-elect Donald Trump has tapped Price to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, here are five key planks in his own health care proposal.

  1. Price’s plan offers fixed tax credits so people can buy their own insurance on the private market. The credit starts at $1,200 a year and rises with age, but isn’t adjusted for income. Everyone receives the same credit whether they are rich or poor. People on Medicaid, Medicare, the military health plan known as Tricare, or the Veterans Affairs’ health plan could opt instead for the tax credit to buy private insurance.
  2. Price advocates for expansion of health savings accounts, which allow people to save money before taxes to pay for health care. This includes allowing people who are covered by government health programs including Medicare and the VA to contribute to health savings accounts to pay for premiums and copayments. These proposals are included in Ryan’s plan.
  3. People with existing medical conditions couldn’t be denied coverage under Price’s plan as long as they had continuous insurance for 18 months prior to selecting a new policy. If they didn’t, then they could be denied coverage for that condition for up to 18 months after buying a new plan.
  4. The Price proposal limits the amount of money companies can deduct from their taxes for employee health insurance expenses. Companies can deduct up to $20,000 for a family health insurance plan and $8,000 for an individual. The goal is to discourage companies from offering overly generous insurance benefits to their workers. Ryan’s plan proposes a cap on the employer tax deduction but doesn’t specify the level of the cap.
  5. States would get federal money to create so-called high-risk pools under Price’s plan. These are government-run health plans for people with existing medical conditions who can’t get affordable health insurance on the private market. Critics say high-risk pools have been tried in as many as 34 states and largely failed because they were routinely underfunded.

Price has said he’s not wedded to his own ideas and is open to compromise, so the final proposal to replace Obamacare is likely to be a hybrid of his ideas and those hammered out with other Republican House members and presented as Ryan’s plan.

Still, with Price on track to be at the helm of HHS, he would be the one writing the rules to implement whatever legislation is eventually passed.

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