In response to disturbing new data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Center for Health Law & Policy Innovation (CHLPI) of Harvard Law School and the National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable (NVHR) today call upon our nation’s federal and state governments to take bold action to remove barriers to hepatitis C treatment. We must invest in the infrastructure urgently needed to guarantee access to treatment for the over 2 million Americans living with hepatitis C.
A new CDC analysis examining laboratory data spanning 2013 through 2022 revealed that only a third of people with a documented hepatitis C diagnosis were cured over the past decade. Worse, for patients without health insurance under the age of 40, only one in six have been cured. These findings echo the realities we’ve encountered through the Hepatitis C: State of Medicaid Access project, where treatment initiation is stifled by arduous and burdensome prior authorization requirements limiting which patients are eligible for treatment and which providers can prescribe. While nearly half of all state Medicaid programs have removed prior authorization for most patients entirely, efforts to increase and streamline treatment access are variable, delayed, and insufficient. CHLPI and NVHR release the following joint statement in response:
“This alarming assessment of HCV cures in the modern treatment era underscores a stark reality: the benefits of pharmaceutical advances will only come to fruition through concerted action to rectify glaring gaps in our health care financing and delivery systems. It is shameful that a mere third of patients diagnosed with hepatitis C received a highly effective cure that has been available for a decade now, and it is unacceptable that the proportion of patients treated falls even lower as incomes and ages decrease.
Everyone deserves a cure, regardless of who they are or where they live, and right now our system is failing the majority of the estimated 2.4 million Americans living with HCV. If we want to do right by our communities and if we are serious about eliminating hepatitis C in this country, we must prioritize the adoption of a comprehensive, nationwide approach like the proposal recently put forward by the White House.
We have a rare opportunity to save and improve the quality of countless lives, and it is morally imperative that we seize this chance now. Equitable access to treatment stops the disease, prevents further spread, and together with the other tools at hand, brings us closer to ending this epidemic. We therefore call upon Congress to work with the White House on a robust national hepatitis C elimination program and urge insurers to remove requirements that needlessly limit access to lifesaving care. People living with hepatitis cannot wait.”