Americans with the hepatitis C virus (HCV) are less likely than their uninfected counterparts to have insurance and access to treatment, according to a study published in Hepatology.

For the study, scientists at the Inova Fairfax Hospital in Falls Church, Virginia, analyzed 2005-2008 data from 10,582 participants in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Of the patients surveyed, 1.16 percent tested positive for HCV.

The researchers found that while 81.2 percent of HCV-negative patients had insurance, only 61.2 percent of HCV-positive patients were insured. Among those with health insurance, those who were HCV positive were less likely to have private insurance, as opposed to public insurance such as Medicare or Medicaid.

Insurance was even less prevalent among people living with HCV who qualified medically for treatment. Approximately 67 percent of the study population had experienced HCV disease progression to the point where treatment becomes necessary, yet only 36.3 percent of them had insurance coverage to pay for care.

“A high proportion of [people living with HCV] in the United States are currently uninsured, and many have publicly funded health insurance,” said the study authors. “This issue of access to care for HCV patients is critical and must be considered by policy makers.”