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Your Guide to the Ryan White CARE Act

Your Guide to the Ryan White CARE Act

The Ryan White CARE Act is a piece of legislation that can help people living with HIV and/or AIDS pay for their healthcare and related services when they are unable to do so. Read on to find out more about the Ryan White CARE Act, including what it pays for, eligibility, and the history of the legislation. 

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What is the Ryan White CARE Act?

The Ryan White CARE (Comprehensive Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome Resources Emergency) Act is a federal program administered by The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), HIV/AIDS Bureau (HAB). The program provides funding to state and local governments and community organizations for the treatment and care of low income people living with HIV and/or AIDS. 

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What does the Ryan White CARE Act provide?

Programs funded by the Ryan White CARE Act help low income individuals pay for medications, medical care, and essential support services associated with HIV and AIDS.

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A case manager will help you to understand what services you can get, to apply for health care coverage if needed, and find out if you’ll have to pay for any of the costs yourself. 

The medical services and costs covered by the program will vary based on your individual circumstances, but may include: health insurance premiums, home health care, mental health care, medical nutrition therapy, substance abuse treatment, oral health care, and/or hospice. 

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The essential support services covered by the program will also vary based on your individual circumstances, but may include: help with housing, food, legal services, child care, non-medical case management, respite care, and/or residential substance abuse services. 

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Who is eligible for Ryan White CARE Act assistance? How can I apply?

There are just two basic eligibility requirements to receive Ryan White CARE act assistance. To be eligible, one must be considered low or very low income, and must be living with HIV and/or AIDS. 

Whether an individual or family is considered low or very low income is determined by their state, locality, medical provider, or organization providing services. Most people who are eligible for assistance either have no health insurance or have health insurance that does not cover the care they need to treat their illness and stay healthy. 

To apply for services, you can search here directly for a provider or organization that offers HIV and AIDS related services. You can also call the HIV/AIDS hotline in your state to find out more about eligibility and resources near you.

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History of the Ryan White CARE Act

The Ryan White Care Act was originally enacted in 1990 and Congress has continued to fund it ever since. It is named after a young man named Ryan White who contracted HIV from a blood transfusion in 1984 at the age of 13. Ryan White lived until 1990 when he died of AIDS at the age of 18.

The Ryan White CARE Act was enacted in order to cover the cost of medical care related to HIV and AIDS for those who are unable to afford it, and to slow the spread of HIV and AIDS. 

One controversial stipulation of the legislation requires states to prosecute individuals who knowingly expose others to HIV. However, some of those state laws have included means of exposure like spitting or biting, which do not actually pose any risk of HIV transmission. Some people feel that these types of laws contribute to the stigma associated with HIV and AIDS. 

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Despite some controversy associated with the legislation, the Ryan White CARE Act is an important resource for low income individuals and families who are affected by HIV and AIDS. 

Other resources that might be helpful include this state-by-state guide to Medicaid and this guide to Medicare and Medicaid, which detail other healthcare resources for low income individuals and families. 

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Catherine Hall, LMSW is a therapist at a small group practice in New York City. She earned her master of social work degree at New York University.