News Releases

AIDS/HIV: Ryan White Care Act Reauthorization Passes Senate Committee

May 19 2006

Senator Murray Secures Commitment from HELP Committee Chairman to Address Her Funding and Formula Concerns

(Washington, D.C.) – Today the U.S. Senate HELP Committee passed a bill to reauthorize the Ryan White Care Act (RWCA). Senator Patty Murray used her position on the Committee to keep many destructive proposals out of the reauthorization and to advocate for increased funding for RWCA programs.

The current bill does not adequately address all of Murray's concerns. She received a commitment from HELP Committee Chairman Mike Enzi (R-WY) that he will work with her on those concerns, and she voted to move the bill out of committee to keep the process moving forward in an effort to strengthen the Act.

First enacted in 1990, the Ryan White Care Act provides care and support services for patients living with HIV/AIDS and their families. It also focuses on prevention and early diagnosis. The current authorization expired on Oct. 1, 2005. The bipartisan Enzi-Kennedy bill (S.2823) passed the HELP Committee 19-1.

Senator Murray released the following statement:

While I have concerns with some parts of this bill, I am pleased that we are moving forward with a bipartisan proposal to reauthorize the Ryan White Care Act. Only by updating the law can we ensure continued funding and strengthen critical programs to address the changing face of the epidemic. This is not a perfect document, nor is it the final document. I voted to move it forward so that I will continue to have a seat at the table to fight for my state.

I'm pleased that we were able to block proposals by the Bush Administration that would have seriously undermined the Act and jeopardized its effectiveness. We protected the core services of the Act and maintained the flexibility that state and local communities rely on. RWCA has been a success because it provides comprehensive care and support services. The Bush Administration tried to strictly limit those services, but we succeeded protecting the comprehensive care that makes the law so effective.

We have people today in Washington that are living proof that these efforts worked. I have met with AIDS and HIV patients who have been living productive, meaningful lives for 10, 15 years. I have seen AIDS move from a terminal disease to a chronic disease with a real quality of life. I have seen Ryan White programs work in communities large and small from Seattle to Yakima and Spokane. Washington state has met the challenge of serving patients in the inner city and in small rural communities. This is the genius of Ryan White programs.

But I do have serious concerns with other aspects of the bill, particularly the authorized funding levels and how the funding formulas are determined. I believe the authorization levels are insufficient to meet the increasing demands for services. As people are living longer, we need to provide greater support services and will see expanding caseloads. The fact that survival rates are increasing and people are living for years with AIDS/HIV is a testament to the success of RWCA, but the reauthorization legislation does not address the increasing need for services. We need to also ensure that we protect existing programs and services that provide a lifeline for thousands of AIDS/HIV patients and their families in WA State.

I supported this legislation today because I believe it represents a good first step in this process. I have received commitments from Chairman Enzi that he will continue to work with me to address my concerns about funding and formula inadequacies as well ensuring that we do not undermine the true success of these programs.