Originally published: June 29, 2010, 11:38 a.m.
Updated: June 30, 2010, 6:03 p.m.
RALEIGH — North Carolina lawmakers and Gov. Bev Perdue approved the state’s final budget on Wednesday, with critical new funds for the state’s AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) left intact.
The final budget includes original recommendations Perdue for an additional $14.1 million in ADAP funding, which provides lifesaving medicines to low-income individuals living with HIV and AIDS. State officials were forced to close new enrollment to the program in January.
Since then, the waiting list for new enrollment has grown exponentially, with 769 people as of June 24. North Carolina’s waiting list is the longest in the nation, according to the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors.
The new budgeted funds will restore ADAP service to those on the waiting list living at or below 125 percent of federal poverty level, although the current waiting list includes individuals living at up to 300 percent.
Ian Palmquist, executive director of Equality North Carolina, said the new funds aren’t a complete fix, but a welcome sight nonetheless.
“It is a huge step in a very tough budget year where the state has already cut $800 million in funding,” Palmquist said. “Having any additional money budgeted for programs is very unusual.”
The additional funds will be used to service only those currently on the waiting list. Palmquist said new enrollment would be unlikely, but steps could be taken to serve clients elsewhere, especially if a Department of Health and Human Services study on Medicaid eligibility is successful. The budget directs department officials to undertake that study and report to Senate and House officials the possibility of moving some wait-listed ADAP patients to Medicaid.
Palmquist said the study is a “good idea,” and cited benefits to both patients and the state.
“One, it would cover all of their health care, not just AIDS drugs, and the federal government matches Medicaid dollars two-to-one — the state would get more federal resources,” Palmquist said.
The Health and Human Services should report their findings to Senate and House health committees by November.