COLUMBUS, Ohio - The latest roadblock in efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act has many Ohioans living with HIV and AIDS relieved, but still concerned about what's next. The Senate's failure to repeal and replace the ACA is a victory for many of the 1.2 million people living with HIV in the United States, including Dennis Billingsly of Akron. He said the ACA improved access to medical care and treatments for people with HIV. And he said it's been stressful to watch lawmakers work to destroy those protections.
"You've got millions of people - the stress alone - worrying about what will happen with the health care. That alone can make a person ill, it can actually kill them,” Billingsly said. "We've got a foothold on this disease, a foothold on other diseases. Let's not turn the clock back. Let's move forward."
According to the HIV Medical Association, the uninsured rate dropped by 4 percent for people with HIV across the country, and 6 percent in Medicaid expansion states one year after the ACA was implemented.
Bills debated in Congress would have undermined some of the essential health benefits covered under the Affordable Care Act, and led to coverage denials and unfair premiums for people with HIV.
Billingsly said continued health care coverage is crucial to his continued prognosis.
"In my situation - with the diabetes, high blood pressure, the chronic asthma - it has to be controlled, it has to be monitored,” he explained. "So it's a whole host of other disease that come along with this."
Daphne Saneholtz, chief public policy and government relations officer at Equitas Health, which provides HIV and AIDS treatment, noted that the ACA is not perfect. But she said GOP leaders and the White House are sending the wrong messages.
"The Affordable Care Act is not devastating to Americans. The Affordable Care Act, in fact, has given the opportunity for affordable, high-quality health insurance to tens of millions of people who otherwise would not have had access to insurance,” Saneholtz said. She added that, moving forward, lawmakers need to discuss bipartisan, common sense solutions for health care reform that will not reverse progress made in improving health outcomes and reducing new HIV infections.