<br>Hearing Of The Subcommittee On Health Of The House Committee On Energy And Commerce - "Ryan White CARE Act Amendments of 2009" Discussion Draft Legislation
Good morning. Today the Subcommittee is meeting to
review the Ryan White Care Act Amendments of 2009
Discussion Draft. This draft has been circulated by Chairman
Waxman and myself and is based in large part on the community
consensus document that was put together by a large number of
AIDS groups from all across the nation. Though we will be using
this discussion draft as the basis for our hearing today, it is very
much a draft and I am interested in having conversations with the
Minority, as well as with the Senate, in an effort to come up with a
strong piece of legislation that can be passed by both chambers
and be signed into law by the President.
The Ryan White Care Act was named after a young boy who
contracted the AIDS virus from a blood transfusion and sadly lost
his life to this horrible disease. Since his death in 1990, we as a
nation have made great strides in preventing and treating
HIV/AIDS, in large part due to the Ryan White program. Once a
guaranteed death sentence, an HIV or AIDS diagnosis today
means a complicated and expensive mix of drugs and therapies
that can allow individuals to live longer and more prolific lives.
And for many, new knowledge of the disease has allowed for
better and more targeted prevention programs that have slowed
the spread of HIV/AIDS.
In spite of these advancements however, there are nearly
40,000 new HIV/AIDS infections reported each year and
according to the CDC, approximately 1.1 million Americans are
currently living with the disease. Since the beginning of this
epidemic, an estimated 580,000 Americans with AIDS have died.
It is more crucial than ever, given the high numbers of
Americans suffering from this disease, that we have the Ryan
White program. Accounting for roughly 19% of all federal funds
that are used on HIV/AIDS care, the program provides treatment
and support services to individuals and families living with the
AIDS virus and serves over half a million low-income Americans.
This program is, without a doubt, extremely vital in our battle
against this horrible epidemic.
In 2006, Congress reauthorized the Ryan White program
and included a sunset provision that will eliminate the program
entirely on October 1 of this year. I am fairly certain that I am
speaking for everyone in this room today when I say we do not
want that to happen. This is why Chairman Waxman and I have
released the draft legislation we are examining today.
The discussion draft before us is based on the community
consensus document and would make a few minor improvements
to the Ryan White program. It eliminates the sunset provision so
that we will never face a last minute scramble to sustain vital
services to our communities. In addition, it would extend the
current program for three years and provide more flexibility for the
appropriators to adequately fund the Ryan White program to best
serve the evolving needs of patients, families, and communities.
The discussion draft extends the exemption period for States
that are still reporting their HIV cases under a code-based
system. It will allow those states to get their names-based
systems fully up-and-running and to ensure that their data is
accurate and useful. In that same vein, it would also ensure that
no Transitional Grant Area (TGA) would lose their status for the
duration of this extension. It would continue the hold harmless
provisions that were established during the 2006 reauthorization,
which protects grantees from large decreases in funding so that
we don't disrupt the provision of care to patients.
We have also included a few more technical tweaks to the
current Ryan White program, all of which guarantee that patients
continue to be able to access these life-saving and life-sustaining
treatments and services.
As I mentioned before, the Ryan White Care Act is
scheduled to sunset on September 30, 2009, so we must act now
to ensure that the patients continue receiving the excellent care
that this program provides. I sincerely hope that we will be able to
work in a productive, bi-partisan, bi-cameral fashion to create a
bill that will benefit over a million citizens fighting this horrific
disease in the United States. I would like to thank the AIDS
community for their hard work in coming together on their
consensus document. For all of us who were here for the last
reauthorization, we know how difficult that must have been and
we greatly appreciate the work you have done.
I now recognize my colleague from Georgia, Mr. Deal, for
five minutes for his opening statement.