Promoted by Rosi
A provision in the recently approved state budget will mean that about 1,000 HIV/AIDS patients can no longer receive free medication from the AIDS Drug Distribution Program. These meds are the difference between life and death, but they are expensive – anywhere from $12,000 to $30,000 per year. The maximum annual income allowed to qualify for the program effective August 1, has been lowered from $54,150 to $32,490. People earning $33,000, for example, would now have to spend between 36% and 91% of their income just on medicine.
As someone in the Health Department succinctly explained when a patient faced with this crisis asked what he should do, “We offer nothing else here. That’s your governor. We didn’t do it.” So welcome to the brave new world of less government, less spending, and less compassion.
It took many years (too many years) of research to develop the drugs that are now successful enough so that patients can not only live with HIV but also work and be productive individuals. Starting August 1 some of these patients may quit their meds and die soon or stop working and seek Medicare or Medicaid. There are some limited alternatives including NJ Workability Program, but they are complicated. Individuals faced with this dire situation should contact HIV/AIDS service organizations such as NJCRI (973.483.3444) and Hyacinth (732.246.0204.)
The State only contributes about 22% of the cost of these drugs as the remainder is paid by the federal government and pharmaceutical firms. For those who quit their jobs the state will have to assume higher costs. For a productive individual having to become a “ward of the state” is a crushing blow.
But as was explained, “That’s your Governor.” And because of the breadth of the cuts through so many different programs, in how many other cases will people seeking help from their government be told, “We offer nothing else here?”