Health Department Will Continue HIV Testing Despite Reimbursement Cuts

The Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department plans to continue its HIV testing and counseling services despite a cut in reimbursement funding.

”The state of West Virginia, because of (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) funding cuts, will not be able to reimburse local health departments for HIV testing and counseling,” Administrator Howard Gamble said.

He said the state’s funding was cut by about $200,000. However, the health department can still have its tests run for free by the state lab because the cost will be covered by existing federal funding.

”We had pending HIV tests in Charleston and as far reimbursement, which was about $800, that was denied,” he said. ”It’s unfortunate, but it’s a sign of the times. … For each client encounter, our department was able to be reimbursed between $20 and $30.”

According to the state Department of Health and Human Resources, the funding is being redirected nationally to sections of the country where there are more HIV cases. Because West Virginia has a lower incidence of the disease, the CDC has reduced funding for the state by $617,541 during the past two years.

”We will see a small drop in our overall operating revenue. The cost of prevention outweighs the cost of not offering the service and being reimbursed,” Gamble said.

Jay Adams, West Virginia HIV Care coordinator, said the Upper Ohio Valley AIDS Task Force has never received reimbursements for testing people. But their tests are sent to the same state lab as the health departments. He noted he is concerned future cuts could result in the state stopping testing altogether.

”When there is no access to testing that’s when things fall apart,” Adams said.

The Hancock, Brooke and Wetzel-Tyler County health departments continue to offer the testing though they have not been reimbursed for the service for almost two years. Dorothy Lockett, Wetzel-Tyler Health Department director, said her department stopped being reimbursed two years ago. She noted at that time, Ohio and Marshall counties were still considered AIDS prevention centers and continued to receive reimbursements. Now, however, the counties are all in the same position.

”At this time we are continuing the service without reimbursement from the state. I don’t know if that will continue, but for now nothing has changed,” said Ronda Francis, Marshall County Health Department administrator.