Assistance for Fort Worth HIV/AIDS patients cut for now

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by LAUREN ZAKALIK

Bio | Email | Follow: @wfaalauren

WFAA

Posted on April 10, 2014 at 5:31 PM

Updated Thursday, Apr 10 at 5:39 PM

FORT WORTH -- Each of the medications in the dozens of vials laid out before him help make Christopher Darwin's life livable.

The pills he's prescribed are paid for, in part, by the AIDS Outreach Center in Fort Worth -- until now.

"I couldn’t have functioned if they didn’t help out," Darwin said.

Darwin, along with 373 other HIV/AIDS patients in the Ft. Worth area, recently found out the center won't cover co-pays, lab bills, or deductibles until further notice.

The reason? The Affordable Care Act, according to the center's Associate Executive Director Aurelio Rodriguez.

"We just didn't know what kind of an impact the ACA was going to have," Rodriguez said.

According to Rodriguez, the center anticipated more patients would need help paying for their new insurance, but they didn't quite realize how many and how expensive it would be.

So far, 24 people have asked for help, in addition to the 374 who already receive it. And there's potential for hundreds more to sign up, Rodriguez said.

Funding, however, has stayed the same. The center receives between $500,000 and $600,000 yearly for this particular program, Rodriguez said.

The center estimates there are 4,800 people in the Ft. Worth area infected with HIV/AIDS, and 20 percent don't even know. The center helps about 1,600 of those patients, and less than 400 of them receive financial help from this particular program.

So for now, while they weigh their options and wait for this year's second round of funds to come in, all they can cover are insurance premiums for these particular patients.

"I cannot make a guarantee the program will come back exactly as it was," Rodriguez said.

Funding could be increased under one scenario, which is tricky; a volunteer planning council from the county health department could re-direct funds from one of the center's programs into the insurance program, but either way, that would mean one program is losing out.

Darwin, who has long used meditation, is having to rely on that practice even more as he's faced with the stress of the unknown. Without the help of Medicare and the outreach center, his medication costs alone would double his yearly income.

"People are going to have to make a decision on whether you’re gonna buy food or you’re gonna buy medication," he said. "And you don’t want people getting sicker."

The first of many meetings on this topic is Friday at 3 p.m., according to the health department. The leadership of the planning council will hear about these issues and hear about alternatives.

In the meantime, the center urges affected patients to get in touch with their case workers.

E-mail lzakalik@wfaa.com

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