TRENTON – A bill that would formally restore the income eligibility guidelines for New Jersey’s AIDS Drug Distribution Program (ADDP) to the levels they were at before Gov. Christie scaled back the program in the FY 2011 State Budget was approved by the Senate Monday by a vote of 22-12.
“In good economic times and bad, New Jersey lawmakers have a sacred responsibility to stand up for programs that make a difference in people’s lives,” said Senator Joseph Vitale, D-Middlesex. “Without prescription drug assistance from the state, many people living with HIV and AIDS would be unable to afford the expensive drug cocktails needed to keep their disease in check. This funding is too important to become a victim of chronic state budget shortfalls, particularly when the funding mechanism we’ve identified through this bill is budget neutral.”
The bill, S-2214, would restore the ADDP program income eligibility levels to 500% of the federal poverty level, or $54,150 a year in income – the standard it was set at in FY 2010. Governor Christie’s FY 2011 Budget reduced the program to 300% of the federal poverty level, or $32,490 a year in income. The governor found other funds to transfer approximately 960 affected residents to the newly-created Temporary AIDS Supplemental Rebate and Federal Assistance Program, which prevented them from losing coverage.
According to the lawmakers, drug therapy alone can cost an HIV-positive or AIDS-positive person $25,000 a year in health care costs, based on a 2006 academic study. That figure doesn’t account for regular blood testing, physician visits or treatment of the side effects caused by these drugs, or the cost of food and shelter, among other living expenses. For individuals earning less than the state’s median income, the high cost of drug therapy can often lead them to rationing medications or cutting out other necessary living expenses.
The bill now heads to the Assembly for consideration.
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