May 21, 2003
Faced with overwhelming opposition from providers, activists and people living with AIDS, California Gov. Gray Davis announced May 14 a reduction in his copayment proposal for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program. Under that proposal, depending on a person's annual income level, they would have had to pay anywhere from $35 to $50 per medication, costing $120-$200 per month. The copay plan was an attempt to raise $7.2 million for the ADAP program. Under Davis' new plan, copayments would be $5, $10, and $15 per medication based on annual income, recouping $5.8 million for ADAP. A person making about $18,000 a year taking five drugs would pay $25 a month, said Eric Bauman, an assistant to the governor.
In addition, ADAP's budget has increased from $186 million to $195 million, due to rebates that several states and AIDS agencies were able to broker with drug companies. "This is still a difficult budget; the shortfall has not gone away," said Bauman. "But we have made it less painful and ensured the greatest number of people will be able to receive care."
There is still a chance the copayments will not go into effect. Assemblymember John Laird (D-Santa Cruz) is circulating a letter among lawmakers to kill the copay proposal. So far, nine legislators have signed on, and Laird expects to gather more support in the coming weeks.
During a phone conference last month, Michael Montgomery, chief of California's Office of AIDS, said it did not appear there was support in the Legislature for the copayment plan. "Certainly the advocates have been very vocal about those proposals and have a receptive audience in the Legislature," Montgomery said. The Legislature "is looking for alternatives," he said. The budget proposals will be addressed in the coming weeks. It is expected the Legislature will finalize its budget plan by July, though in years past budget negotiations have dragged late into fall.
Bay Area Reporter (San Francisco)
05.15.03; Matthew S. Bajko