The public policy program of JustUs Health is a leader in advocating for the rights of all people affected by HIV. Our public policy program strives to meet our mission by advancing policy initiatives related to HIV prevention and services in these three key areas:
- Advancing HIV prevention initiatives
- Increasing access to HIV services
- Protecting existing HIV services and rights
Our public policy program conducts its work through three main program goals:
- Community organizing: Building an educated and mobilized network of advocates at the community level
- Legislative advocacy: Advancing a legislative agenda that forwards proactive legislative policy and protects existing rights and service levels
- Coalitions and partnerships: Positioning JustUs Health as a policy leader in the HIV community and on related policy and advocacy coalitions
2018 MN Legislative Session Summary
The 2018 legislative session recently came to a close. Below are several important updates that impact people living with HIV/AIDS and the LGBTQ community!
Medicaid Work Requirements SF3611 (Johnson) / HF3722 (Fenton)
In March, Senator Mark Johnson proposed a bill that asks for a federal waiver to allow Minnesota to establish work and community engagement requirements for enrollees to continue receiving healthcare through Medicaid. The bill aims to cut Medicaid spending on able-bodied adults who are “wasting” money that could be going to the truly needy. This is counter-intuitive because it adds new barriers to health care for low-income people, including many HIV or LGBTQ individuals. In reality,
The majority of people qualifying for Medicaid who can work are working.
Those who are not working may face barriers in the required reporting of their conditions, putting the already impaired in a far worse position.
Low-wage and part-time employment may not be enough to bring an individual or their family above the poverty line, leaving many people living with HIV/AIDs at risk of losing coverage. This is especially harmful to many who with a loss of affordable healthcare would also lose their ability to sustain any job.
JustUs Health is an active partner in the ThisIsMediciad Coalition that worked hard to defeat this bill. Despite passing out of multiple committees in both the House and Senate, your advocacy kept this bill from coming to a floor vote, effectively ending this bill and keeping many people living with HIV from losing insurance coverage.
Read more about how Medicaid requirements can impact healthcare here.
Step Therapy SF2897 (Utke) / HF3196 (Fenton)
Step Therapy is when insurance companies ask for proof that the cheapest treatment option has failed before they agree to cover medications the doctor has prescribed. This process severely delays treatment and leads to worse health outcomes that end up costing insurance companies more in the long run. This especially impacts those with chronic diseases that need personal treatment such as those living with HIV/AIDS.
In May, JustUs Health worked as part of a coalition to successfully change the law. The new law allows doctors to override Step therapy, giving patients access to the most productive treatment plans right away.
Opioid Treatment and Overdose Prevention SF730 (Rosen) / HF1440 (Baker)
Legislation to charge pharmaceutical companies a fee to help pay for opioid treatment and overdose prevention failed. This part of the omnibus Health and Human Services bill would have funded many services that would benefit our clients including treatment services, naloxone distribution, awareness and education, and needle exchange programs. This fee that would provide roughly $20 million towards the state’s epidemic has received bipartisan support. The proposal passed 60-6 in the Senate but failed to pass in the House, where the money was instead substituted for state dollars. It is important that we continue to advocate to hold drug companies currently profiting from the opioid epidemic accountable and even more importantly, make them part of the solution. Despite the defeat this session, a foundation to build from next year was established.
Bonding Bill HF4425 (Miller) / SF4021 (Draheim)
As a member of Homes for All Coalition, JustUs Health advocated for bonding projects to improve, increase, and sustain affordable housing measures. Your work resulted in a huge win as the governor passed a $1.5 billion bonding bill. Part of this bill includes $90 million in funding for affordable housing and $30 million for mental health crisis centers.
Trump to slash funds for HIV/AIDS care and prevention!
President Trump recently released his 2018 budget request. This document lays out the President’s spending priorities on what to invest in and what to cut. As we feared, Trump has proposed massive funding cuts for HIV care and prevention. If enacted, these cuts will reduce and eliminate services that prevent the spread of HIV, and keep people living with HIV healthy.
These proposed cuts will set back the fight against AIDS just as we begin to make significant progress! Now, more than ever, we must maintain and strengthen our progress towards our national goals and priorities of reducing new HIV infections, increasing access to care and improving health outcomes for people living with HIV, and reducing HIV-related health disparities.
The proposed $59 million cut to the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program, coupled with a fundamental restructuring of the Medicaid program capping federal spending for the first time to the tune of a $610 million funding reduction over the next decade would result in massive increases in the number of people who could not afford lifesaving medications and medical care. In addition, the elimination of the AIDS Education and Training Centers and Special Programs of National Significance (SPNS) diminishes every community’s ability to deliver quality HIV health care.
Further, the President’s budget eliminates SPNS and reduces funding for Minority AIDS Initiative (MAI) programs. SPNS and MAI programs address the HIV epidemic by developing targeted, innovative approaches to reach chronically underserved people.
The President’s budget cuts to domestic HIV/AIDS programs include:
- HIV prevention programs at the CDC cut 20% by $149 million
- Flatlines CDC Hepatitis Prevention funding at only $34 million
- Reduces $26 million from the Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS (HOPWA) program at HUD.
- Eliminates the Secretary’s Minority AIDS Initiative Fund ($54 million).
- Minority AIDS Initiative (MAI) funding was also reduced at SAMHSA by over $17 million.
- Cuts the National Institutes of Health by over 20 percent.
Currently, your members of Congress are working on crafting their federal budget plans. Now is the time for you to let them know you will not support these drastic cuts!