May 12, 2003
Despite the state budget crisis, Texas health officials said Thursday that they expect the Legislature to come through with more aid for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program. However, the state Department of Health has devised a backup plan that would require patient fees and enrollment limits should the aid dry up. The department will hold some 20 public meetings throughout Texas over the next month to receive comments about the proposed rules to cope with continued ADAP money problems.
The Texas Legislature is beefing up aid for ADAP, with the House recommending a $28 million increase over the two-year budget cycle, and the Senate proposing $20 million more, according to Dr. Sharilyn Stanley, the heath department's associate commissioner for disease control and prevention. "They obviously knew the value of the program," said Stanley. Despite the slated increase, the proposals are not enough to wipe out the shortfall, Stanley noted.
The ADAP deficit for the current fiscal year is $8 million; the shortfall for the upcoming biennium is projected at $36 million, said Stanley. Thus, the program, which has a budget of around $114 million for the current two years, needs $44 million more to remain solvent through the 2005 biennium. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently kicked in another $4.8 million, and Texas hopes to get a similar amount in the second year of the biennium.
Members of the AIDS Coalition of Texas Now said they were disappointed the proposals were coming before the Legislature adopted a budget, fearing it would send a message that the health department could solve the shortfall without increased assistance.
05.08.03; Mary Ann Roser