Fiscal Cliff for HIV/AIDS Programs Loom

fiscal-cliff news discovery com

The fiscal cliff — which starts to take effect in January 2, 2013– includes $7 trillion worth of tax increases and spending cuts over a decade. In addition, the debt ceiling will need to be raised by early next year. The word you hear is “sequestration.”

Among the fiscal cliff policies at issue: reductions in both defense and non-defense spending; the expiration of the Bush tax cuts; the end of a payroll tax holiday and extended unemployment benefits; and the onset of reimbursement cuts to Medicare doctors.

Pending across-the-board cuts to federal programs have advocates concerned that up to 12,200 people living with HIV/AIDS in the United States could lose access to drugs and programs unless Congress takes action.

The anticipated cuts, set to take effect on Jan. 2, are the result of the Budget Control Act, legislation President Obama signed last year as part of a compromise to raise the limit on the nation’s debt ceiling. It would reduce continued funding for the U.S. government in 2013 and beyond by cutting an estimated 8.2% in the first year from discretionary federal programs — including HIV/AIDS programs.

In the letter to Congress, the AIDS Institute spells out the reductions to four federal HIV/AIDS programs that would result from sequestration, which amounts to a total reduction of $538 million based on calculations from fiscal year 2012 levels:

funding for HIV prevention at the Centers for Disease Control would be cut by $64 million;

the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program, which provides care to low income people with the disease, would be cut by $196 million, including $77 million in cuts from the AIDS Drug Assistance Program;

AIDS research at the National Institutes of Health would be cut by $251 million;

and the Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS, or HOPWA, program would be cut by $27 million.

Carl Schmid, deputy executive director of the AIDS Institute, said unless Congress acts to institute an alternative budget, the level of funding provided would be troublesome because “people wouldn’t be able to get their drugs.”

Lawmakers must choose whether to leave those measures in place, replace some or all of them, postpone them or cancel them entirely. Their decision will affect the economy, the country’s credit rating and the U.S. debt burden.

“[F]ailure to avoid the fiscal cliff and raise the debt ceiling in a timely manner as well as securing agreement on credible deficit reduction would likely result in a rating downgrade in 2013,” Fitch Ratings warned on Wednesday. If left in place, the fiscal cliff would lead to the biggest single-year drop in the annual deficit as a percent of the economy since 1969. This concerns me very much and only ‘hope’ the folks in DC can come to a compromise before they take their extended holiday vacations thus leaving the people who’ll be effected in dire straights.. The country heard  President Obama ‘promise’ this won’t happen so we’ll see if he can compromise what he signed. Keep watching.  Are you worried?

Tom Thayer




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