Three-year compromise bill hits President's desk after early-morning House passage
In the wee hours of last Saturday morning (we're talking 2 A.M) and under the lonely watch of bleary-eyed policy wonks, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the final compromise version of the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Modernization Act of 2006 (HR 6143) by unanimous consent.
As Update readers know, the compromise isn't perfect, but it does offer a modest amount of new funding to some Southern and rural states while providing protections for hard-hit urban epicenters.
After two exhausting years of reauthorization work, most folks seem relieved that the bill finally made it onto President Bush's desk. Democrats have promised a fresh start in 2007, with top-to-bottom hearings on the domestic HIV/AIDS service delivery system. If Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD) stays healthy the Senate HELP Committee will follow through with their plan for extensive hearings towards a bigger, better system of care.
Barton forces NIH trade-off
The trade-offs and compromises that won over big-state Senators with holds on the bill (like New York Senators Hillary Clinton and Charles Schumer and New Jersey Senators Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez) irked House Energy & Commerce Chair Joe Barton (R-TX), who was the prime mover of the original "winners and losers" Ryan White bill in the House.
(Outgoing) Chairman Barton held up all health legislation - including Ryan White, Medicare reimbursement for doctors, and emergency funding for shortfalls in the State Children's Health Insurance Program - until a deal was worked out that got money approved for the doctors and the kids and the Barton-backed NIH bill passed into law.
Details and comments on the final compromise
The Senate passed Ryan White after Sen. Ted Kennedy's staff pulled together a shorter, three-year that lessens the destabilizing effect of formula changes on urban areas and avoids the implementation of Severity of Need Index (SONI). "Hold harmless" provisions extend for the life of the bill, meaning localities won't see their RW funding drop below 2006 funding levels prior to 2009.
"Over the past year, I have been working with my colleagues to reauthorize this important piece of legislation and have been forced time and time again to oppose reauthorization proposals because of their devastating impact on New York," said Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY). "I am proud that we have forged a three-year compromise that contains essential protections for New York and other hard-hit states."
"Our major concerns for New York and New Jersey were around funding stability," said Matthew Lesieur, director of federal affairs at the New York AIDS Coalition (NYAC). "This Congress has moved a long way toward alleviating some of those concerns."
The 'to-do' list: money, money, money for treatment, care & services
When Congressional budget committees and appropriators settle down to work this spring, the AIDS community will be waiting at the table, asking them to deliver what the reauthorization process promised: treatment, care and services for people living with HIV/AIDS all over the country who need care but can't afford to pay for it.
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