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by Amanda Conschafter, blog editor

While states across the country grapple with the Medicaid population’s need for costly hepatitis C cures, Connecticut has taken a bold stand for patient access.

Hepatitis infographic

Effective July 1, the state’s Department of Social Services will simplify prior authorization processes and classify several hepatitis C cures as preferred drugs. As reported by the Hartford Courant, the department’s spokesperson predicted that the changes will make cures “readily available” to the patients in the Connecticut Medicaid system. The newspaper credited Medicaid discounts, competition among pharmaceutical manufacturers and price negotiations for Connecticut’s ability to provide the pricey cures to more patients.

Advocates and analysts continue to point out the cost advantage of curing the disease as opposed to treating cirrhosis and liver cancer, which often follow hepatitis C. Yet it remains to be seen whether other states will follow Connecticut’s lead in improving patient access.

In the meantime, some patients desperate for a cure continue to take matters into their own hands. The LA Times recently reported that a California woman has filed suit against her health insurer for refusing to pay for a cure to treat her hepatitis C. The insurer denied her claim, explaining that her liver was not sufficiently scarred to justify coverage. The practice is common; several states and private insurers have enacted prior authorization requirements that limit access to only the sickest patients.

[RELATED: As Cost Debate Persists, Hepatitis C Patients Go Untreated]

Though cost and value debates persist, medical professionals and organizations are increasingly recognizing the importance of patient access to hepatitis C cures. Earlier this month, the World Health Organization added hepatitis C cures to its Essential Medicines List.

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