U.S. Supreme Court Ruling on Health Care Reform and HIV

The U.S. Supreme Court took a massive step toward ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic today when it found nearly all provisions of the Affordable Care Act to be constitutional. 

Federal, state and local implementation efforts must continue in order to guarantee hundreds of thousands of uninsured Americans with HIV receive needed high-quality clinical care and treatment.

“Today’s Supreme Court decision will be remembered as a historic victory for the AIDS community and, in particular, for low-income, marginalized people with HIV who struggle to gain access to the very health care and medicine that could save their lives,” said David Ernesto Munar, President/CEO of the AIDS Foundation of Chicago (AFC)

“If fully implemented, national health care reform will put us on the road to an AIDS-free generation by dramatically expanding access to medical care, life-saving HIV treatment and screening,” Munar said.

Today, an estimated 1.2 million people are living with HIV in the U.S. They need access to high-quality, uninterrupted health care to stay healthy, reduce new HIV infections and cut long-term health care costs.  Recognizing the Affordable Care Act as the law of the land gives people with HIV access to the reliable health coverage that they need to maintain continuous medical care, without worry of interruptions caused by inadequate coverage or an inability to pay. 

“New science has provided the tools to effectively treat HIV and to make significant headway against the AIDS epidemic in the United States,” continued Munar. “Research clearly shows that, with early access to treatment, people with HIV stay healthier and are significantly less likely to transmit HIV to others in the community.” 

Unfortunately, the ruling came with a significant setback as well. The Court ruled that states cannot be financially penalized for refusing to expand Medicaid to all low-income people. The law requires the federal government to pay 90% percent of the cost of expanding Medicaid, and the states just 10%. 

“The Medicaid ruling is a dark shadow on the horizon and significant bad news for people with HIV,” Munar noted. “States now have an opening to drop the Medicaid expansion, one of the most significant provisions for people with HIV.  Geographic disparities in access to care in the U.S. South may persist and could worsen the epidemic in some regions of the country that forgo Medicaid expansion.  The fight will now shift to the states to ensure that all low-income people benefit from healthcare reform.” 

The Supreme Court’s finding that the individual mandate is constitutional is a victory for people with HIV and countless others who have been shut out of the current health insurance market.  This provision, which many observers considered to be at great risk of being stuck down, requires all individuals to have health coverage. National health care reform will level the playing field for people with pre-existing conditions to obtain health insurance coverage, as health insurance companies will be required to sell them coverage under the new law.

“Health reform implementation must now proceed full steam ahead,” said John Peller, AFC’s Vice President of Policy. “We know there will be more law suits and attempts to repeal the law.  Congress should acknowledge that the Affordable Care Act is the law of the land by fully funding health reform and ending efforts to repeal it. Progress must not be held hostage by politics.”

“We also call on Governor Quinn and the Illinois General Assembly to act swiftly to prepare the state for January 1, 2014,” Peller continued. “There’s no time to waste.  Governor Quinn should immediately enact an executive order to establish the state’s health insurance exchange.”

To learn more about the ways health reform will benefit people with HIV, visit HIVHealthReform.org, a partnership between AFC and a number of national organizations to educate the community.

Founded in 1985 by community activists and physicians, the AIDS Foundation of Chicago is a catalyst for local, national, and international action against HIV/AIDS.