Trump’s Plan To Change Medicare Part D Is A Major Setback In The Black Community’s Fight Against HIV
We can end the HIV epidemic- but not like this.
February 20, 2019 at 10:11 pm
President Trump pledged during his State of the Union address to end the HIV epidemic in the next decade. For the first time, that goal is within our grasps. Since 1995 – when more than 50,000 people living with HIV died – that number of people dying from HIV has been on a steady decline. Since the height of the epidemic, HIV has gone from being a public health crisis to a manageable disease that can be lived with. We should cheer our progress, but the African American community knows all too well that there is considerable work to be done.
At a time when new HIV transmissions are declining overall, new diagnosis among Black men remains stubbornly high. Today, African Americans account for 44 percent of all new HIV diagnoses, though they comprise just 12 percent of the nation’s population. Worse, African Americans account for more than half — 52 percent — of total all HIV deaths in the U.S.
This is an alarming disparity. It is also one that would be made significantly worse by a new Trump Administration proposed change to Medicare Part D, which safeguards access to life-saving and life-changing medications for people living with HIV who rely on Medicare.
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Trump’s proposed rule would change Medicare Part D’s protected classes that were created to make sure people living with serious chronic illnesses can access the medicines their doctors think work best for them. Without these protections, insurance companies would have the power to force people off medications they currently rely on or try something that might not be right for them. We know that this endangers the health of hundreds of thousands of people living with HIV — more than 40 percent of whom are Black. In fact, moving to a restrictive insurance system, as the administration proposes, would lead to 16,200 more deaths related to HIV, according to a study published in the American Journal of Managed Care.
And while the Trump administration argues that the change is an effort to control drug prices, it would actually raise costs. Restricting patients’ access to drugs would lead to additional health problems for people living with HIV that would cost $3.65 billion by 2025, compared to $1.43 billion in a system that allows doctors to prescribe the full range of treatments.
As a leading provider of HIV care in the South, we know this proposed rule is dangerous and irresponsible. Not just for African Americans living with HIV, but for the more than 250,000 people living with HIV across the country who rely on Medicare.
Medicare Part D is a government program that works. It’s reduced new diagnoses and saved lives. We have a ways to go in reducing the new HIV diagnosis in our community, especially among African American men, but now is not the time to drive a wedge between doctors, people living with HIV and the treatments that have finally begun to slow the death and infection rates of HIV. If Trump is serious about ending the HIV epidemic, he can start by withdrawing his Medicare Part D proposed rule.