AUSTIN (KXAN) - The Senate Finance Committee restored the full $19.2 million to pay for an additional 3,000 low-income patients expected to need life-saving HIV medication Thursday night. This comes days after a Senate panel voted to spend an additional $4.5 billion on health services, which originally did not include the additional funding for the HIV program.
Under the program, an average $6,700 worth of HIV drugs goes to more than 14,000 people annually who don't have insurance and make less than $30,000 a year. The Texas Department of State Health Services says there is an expected 14 percent growth in the number of people needing drug assistance over the next two years.
"The $19.2 million in additional funds would be used to serve approximately 1,800 new applicants to the program," said Christine Mann, a DSHS spokesperson. "(It) would address increasing caseloads and the rising csts of prescription medication. If the additional funding is not received, we would consider restructuring the program to best meet the needs of our clients given all the available resources. We would also need to slow the growth of enrollment into the program."
The committee's decision to restore the funding was part of the larger, but less than expected addition of $4.3 billion to health and human services and social services.
Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, chairwoman of the Finance Subcommittee on Medicaid, said each item of the budget was put into three categories in order to prioritize which programs would receive the additional money. Priority One would be the most important. The HIV drugs program originally fell into priority two.
"It is my belief that when we vote on a priority like this we are basically making a decision regarding who lives and who dies," said Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, in last week's hearing.
Where the state would get the additional funding was not clear, though Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst has tasked another Senate subcommittee to find a $5 billion in new revenues to add to the budget by next week. He said previously he expects "life-saving drugs will be included" in the final budget.
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