July 28 marks World Hepatitis Day, part of the World Health Organization’s effort to eliminate hepatitis B and C by 2030. Each year, 10 million people are newly infected with viral hepatitis and 1.4 million die – despite screening capabilities, vaccines and curative treatments. Perhaps that’s because, as the WHO notes, less than one percent of patients globally can access treatment.
Hepatitis Treatment Barriers in the United States
Those access challenges are increasingly visible in the United States, where state Medicaid systems in particular ration care to control costs. A combination of advocacy, the threat of legal action, and direction from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have led several states to reduce access barriers. Some state Medicaid systems have eliminated disease severity requirements, whereby patients had to demonstrate advanced liver fibrosis to qualify for treatment.
The majority of states remain unchanged, however, and private insurance presents a battle all its own. Moreover, even in states that have reduced access barriers for Medicaid patients, the may be only partial. Some states eliminated fibrosis requirements for Medicaid fee-for-service patients – but not for patients covered by a Medicaid managed care organization. And removing fibrosis requirements doesn’t negate the barrier posed by other prior authorization steps, such as the need for patients to abstain from alcohol or drug use.
New Resources from the Alliance for Patient Access
The Alliance for Patient Access explores the impact of Medicaid care rationing in a new one-minute video, “Rationing Hepatitis C Cures is Costing Patients,” released today.
The organization also acknowledged World Hepatitis Day with the release of a new infographic urging state Medicaid systems to “Choose Access” for patients with hepatitis C.
World Health Organization Campaign
In addition to better access, the World Health Organization’s hepatitis elimination campaign envisions widespread vaccination at birth and screening of all blood donations. The measures proposed by the organization would, it says, reduce the hepatitis death toll by 65 percent and reduce new cases of viral hepatitis by 90 percent. The WHO aims for its efforts to save 7.1 million lives by 2030.