The Elton John AIDS Foundation has launched an online petition to urge Gov. Rick Scott and Florida legislators to not reduce income eligibility requirements for the state’s AIDS Drug Assistance Program.

AIDS Drug Assistance Programs are federally funded, state-run programs that provide HIV/AIDS drugs to low-income and uninsured HIV-positive Americans. To reduce the program’s length waiting list in Florida, the state Department of Health has proposed reducing income eligibility from 400 percent of the federal poverty level to 200 percent. If the bureau’s proposal is adopted, a patient would have to earn roughly $26,000 or less to qualify. HIV/AIDS medications cost between $10,000 and $20,000 per year.

According to a press release issued by the John foundation today, Scott has not responded to a letter sent on June 1 urging him to protect the AIDS Drug Assistance Program from this reduction.

Jesse Fry — the co-chair of the Florida HIV/AIDS Advocacy Network who testified in one of a series of public forums hosted by the state’s Bureau of HIV/AIDS — told The Florida Independent that proposed changes to Drug Assistance Program eligibility have negative workforce implications.

“If you cut the eligibility from [the current] 400 percent of the federal poverty level to 200 percent of the federal poverty level, that takes out a large income range where people can work and advance in their careers, accept promotions and eventually leave the ADAP system,” Fry said.

The eligibility reduction was proposed as a cost-containment measure for Florida’s cash-strapped program. It has been in a financial crisis since 2010, and a variety of reasons helped create this crisis.

A federal report issued in March alleged that there are unresolved and unanswered concerns from prior Office of Inspector General, Office of Performance Review, and Health Resources and Services Administration audits and visits.

Tom Liberti, director of the state’s Bureau of HIV/AIDS, recently told National Public Radio that a combination of a deep recession, flat federal government funding, flat or reduced state funding, massive unemployment, 4 million Floridians without insurance, and more early treatment for HIV explains the AIDS Drug Assistance Program’s funding crisis.

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