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Office Of The Vice President

For Immediate Release December 9, 1997


In April, I directed the Health Care Financing Administration and the Office of National AIDS Policy to determine the feasibility of establishing a demonstration to permit earlier Medicaid coverage for HIV positive individuals. Last week, HCFA announced that it had not yet found a way to reach this goal within the confines of Medicaid policy, which requires that demonstration projects be done in a budget-neutral way.

I am extremely disappointed that they could not find a way to achieve our goal through this mechanism under current policy. But reports that this marks the end of our efforts are mistaken. In fact, I am directing the Department of Health and Human Services and ONAP to continue to work on ways to expand access to life-saving drug therapies for people living with HIV and AIDS. I believe that we must find ways to expand access to lifesaving therapies for people living with HIV and AIDS.

This Administration understands the urgency of finding innovative ways to ensure that all people with HIV benefit from the promise of new and effective treatments. That's why the President and I have worked so hard to increase significantly funding for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program. In addition, since the beginning of this Administration, funding for AIDS research at NIH has increased 50 percent. We also directed HCFA to ensure that all state Medicaid programs cover protease inhibitors.

We know that AIDS is one of the most critical health problems facing our nation. We have worked hard to find solutions to help prevent, treat and cure this disease. We must work harder.

This Administration will continue to work with Congress, patient advocates, states, pharmaceutical manufacturers and others to find innovative ways to provide access to these life-saving therapies. The stakes are too high for us to stop now.