RILEY, COUGHLIN & COUTINHO BILL TO RESTORE AIDS DRUG PROGRAM ELIGIBILITY GETS FINAL LEGISLATIVE OK

(TRENTON) – Legislation Assembly Democrats Celeste M. Riley, Craig J. Coughlin and Albert Coutinho sponsored to restore the income eligibility for New Jersey’s AIDS Drug Distribution Program to the level it was at before it was slashed back by Gov. Chris Christie received final legislative approval on Wednesday when it was approved 47-31 by the Assembly.

The budget signed by the governor in June 2010 reduced eligibility for the AIDS Drug Distribution Program from 500 percent of the federal poverty level to 300 percent. The bill (A-3286) restores income eligibility levels to 500 percent of the federal poverty level.

“Shared sacrifice has become a popular refrain in New Jersey, but to deny AIDS patients the drugs vital to their well being as a cost saving measure is simply unconscionable,” said Riley (D-Cumberland/Gloucester/Salem). “We must restrain spending, but not at the expense of people’s lives and public health. By restoring eligibility, this bill aims to rectify this reckless cut by the governor.”

“This program means life or death for many people,” said Coughlin (D-Middlesex). “Spending cuts are needed, but we cannot be inhumane in the decisions we make when lives are on the line. We also shouldn’t be making decisions that lead to higher medical costs when AIDS patients who lose their drugs grow sicker and require more expensive treatments.”

“This funding cut is, without exaggeration, a death sentence for the nearly 1,000 people who cannot afford to purchase AIDS medication on their own,” said Coutinho (D-Essex). “No one argues that we must reduce our budgetary spending, but that does not mean we can simply cut without a conscience. The governor may not think so, but as public servants, it is incumbent on us to help those who need it most.”

The sponsors said the Department of Health and Senior Services must achieve other savings and receive additional rebates for prescription drugs purchased by the program to provide the additional funding needed to restore income eligibility.