Looming Sequestration Could Cripple a Savannah Health Care Progr - Local news, weather, sports Savannah | WSAV On Your Side

Looming Sequestration Could Cripple a Savannah Health Care Program

SAVANNAH, GA -

It's a word that you will be hearing a lot about again in coming weeks-- sequestration.

It's what will happen if congress can't reach a deal on a budget-- massive across-the-board spending cuts.

Those affect just about every segment of our government-- from the military, to food safety, to healthcare-- and there's concern that it could also derail any economic progress that is being made.

We're talking 85 billion dollars in massive spending cuts.

Two million workers face furloughs; and one way or another the impact may be felt by most Americans.

The cuts were supposed to take effect January1st after a congressional super committee, but were put off until March 1st to give lawmakers more time to reach a deal.

Those looming cuts could have serious implications -- hitting one health area here at home really hard; the cuts to AIDS and HIV treatment and prevention.

Today I did some digging to see exactly how it could impact programs here in Savannah.

Turns out, the impact would be huge.

Chatham County is one of the top Coastal Empire districts needing federal assistance.

Today I met with the director of HIV Services for the Coastal District to find out if they can continue to bring life-saving treatment to our area for those who need it the most.

"In 2012, we treated about eleven-hundred patients."

Susan Alt works for the people of the Coastal Health District here in Savannah, but so much of what she does relies on the work our elected officials do in Washington-- or a lack thereof.

"If the federal budget is not resolved, our Ryan White funding could be impacted."

It takes about 1.3 million dollars to provide life sustaining treatment and medication to those living with HIV and AIDS in our area, but soon that could all change.

"We have only been awarded five-hundred thousand which is a prorated portion of that. Until full funding can be given to us, when the budget is resolved, we right now have funding through May 31st."

A day that Alt says will be here before you know it. Not only does the health department desperately need the funding, but also those suffering with the disease.

"Chatham is by far our largest incidence county, but if you look at the prevalence of HIV and AIDS in Georgia, the Coastal Health District is right outside of Atlanta. We have always come in the top few districts for incidences and prevalence."

Alt says they have always dealt with possible cuts in their past, but somehow it always works itself out. This time, she says they may not see the same outcome.

"If we did not get additional funding, we would have to think about staff cuts, and everything that goes along with not getting that grant. Grant "C" is really our big primary care grant, provides the bulk of pharmaceuticals, labs and all of that."

This just one of many extensions Washington granted itself after making promises to resolve the budget.

Along with their agreement to extend most of the Bush-era tax rates, Obama and congress approved legislation to extend the sequestration deadline to March 1st.

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