January 26, 2011

January 26, 2011
How Did Florida Run Out of ADAP Funds?

Welcome to another day in my life. Today is Wednesday and we have almost made it through the middle of another work week. I hope you are having a safe and great week so far.

As you have read in my blogs, it has been a very rough year so far for Floridians with HIV and AIDS. A lot of you have been asking why?

Florida officials are scrambling to come up with money for the state’s AIDS Drug Assistance Program. Lorraine Wells of the state Department of Health told the Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations subcommittee last week that the program, which provides free drugs to 10,000 qualifying HIV/AIDs patients, is set to run out of money on Feb. 10.

The problem: New federal money will not arrive till April, and it will cost $14.5 million to keep it running in the meantime, according to the department. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, who chairs the state Senate panel, said after Wells’ testimony that lawmakers are looking for ways to resolve the crisis funding situation.

One option is for the Legislative Budget Commission to shift some money around. Negron also said the governor’s office is aware of the problem and looking into it. The governor’s press office has not responded to requests for comment.

Brandon Macsata of the ADAP Advocacy Association, which is hosting a summit at the end of the month that will address the problem, said various assistance programs offered by pharmaceutical companies, such as Welvista, have been providing drugs to patients on waiting lists since the program started turning away new patients in June, and may be able to help provide temporary relief.

The program has received $85 million under the federal Ryan White Care Act, plus $9.5 million in state funds.

According to the health department, that money has been exhausted. So how did that happen?

For one thing, according to the health department, demand for the program, fueled by Florida’s struggling economy, has been growing, and funding has not kept pace. A department spokeswoman said more people are unemployed, and therefore uninsured or underinsured — meaning more patients are seeking assistance.

Like other states, Florida had to start turning away clients over the summer, and its waiting list has grown to more than 2,800 people, according to the spokeswoman. Florida now accounts for more than half of the people in the United States on waiting lists for AIDs Drug Assistance Programs, according to the AIDs Healthcare Foundation.

So now at least you know the why. Now we have to figure out how to fix things so the problem does not reoccur next year.

Until we meet again; here's wishing you health, hope, happiness and just enough.

big bear hug,

Daddy Dab