Treatment access advocates are crashing the Medicaid Health Plans of America (MPHA) annual conference in Washington, DC, from November 11 to 13. They are there to speak out against Jeff Myers, the trade group’s CEO, who recently made “stigmatizing statements” to the media about what patients should receive hepatitis C virus (HCV) treatments under state-funded programs, according to a press release from The AIDS Institute, which called for the response.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a notice to all 50 state Medicaid directors warning that rationing hep C treatment based on liver disease severity, substance abuse history or other factors to reduce costs is in direct violation of both federal law and the latest HCV treatment guidelines from the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD).

The letter was, in part, a reaction to recent findings that 42 of 50 state Medicaid systems are limiting their payment for hep C drugs in some way—either by restricting treatment to only those with advanced liver damage, requiring people to abstain from drugs and alcohol before starting therapy, or limiting the types of doctors able to prescribe hep C drugs.

In response, Myers was quoted as saying that, in his opinion, prior authorization policies were “perfectly legal” and “firmly rooted in medical efficacy.” He also defended barring alcohol users from accessing hep C treatment, and stated that injection drug users might not have the mental capacity to stay adherent to their medications.

Activists faced off with Myers at the MPHA conference’s breakout session, “Differentiating Strategies from Tactics in Hepatitis C Management,” on November 12 to decry his statements, and remind him that treatment is recommended for all patients with hep C unless they have a short life expectancy.

The latest AASLD guidelines note that excluding people from hep C treatment based on the amount of alcohol they drink is not supported by any medical data. The recommendations also underline evidence that people who inject drugs have demonstrated treatment adherence and low rates of reinfection in a number of real-world studies.

“We call on Jeff Myers and the MPHA to promote the necessity of basing hepatitis C treatment decisions on science, rather than stigma, and encourage MPHA members to follow the federal laws outlined in the federal notice,” wrote Carl Schmid, deputy director of The AIDS Institute, in the recent call to action, which was co-signed by the National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable and Project Inform. “Anything less is unethical and undermines efforts to eliminate the hepatitis C epidemic in the United States.”