October 4, 2010

NVHR Blasts Arizona Medicaid's 'Inhumane' Policy Depriving Hepatitis C Patients Liver Transplant Coverage

Patient Advocates, Noted Liver Physician Criticize Arizona Policy as Lacking Scientific Basis

WASHINGTON, Oct. 4 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A controversial new policy by the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System depriving hepatitis C patients coverage for liver transplants is effectively a death sentence that, left unchecked, could have far-reaching consequences for millions of Americans afflicted with chronic viral hepatitis, the National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable (NVHR) said today. The new coverage exclusion governing liver transplants took effect Friday as part of broader Medicaid coverage changes made by the state of Arizona in response to budgetary pressures.

"The Arizona Medicaid program's decision to deprive hepatitis C patients coverage for liver transplants is inhumane and will have devastating consequences for Arizona's Medicaid beneficiaries," said Ms. Lorren Sandt, NVHR Chair and Executive Director of Caring Ambassadors Program, based in Portland, Oregon. "NVHR recognizes that both public and private health care programs are struggling with the burden of rising costs and a challenging economic environment. However, the cruel costs associated with Arizona's Medicaid coverage changes do not appear to be based on sound science and far exceed any supposed benefit."

"The standard of care for centers and practitioners is to offer liver transplants to patients with hepatitis C. All insurance providers – including state Medicaid programs – need to provide coverage for what is the standard of care. With new curative therapies on the horizon, it is imperative not to discriminate against patients with hepatitis C when selecting patients for a liver transplant," said Robert G. Gish, M.D., Co-Director Center for Hepatobiliary Disease and Abdominal Transplantation (CHAT), University of California, San Diego School of Medicine.

Arizona Medicaid's transplant coverage exclusion is the first of its kind in the nation for hepatitis C patients. NVHR is deeply troubled that the new Medicaid coverage exclusion inflicts catastrophic consequences that go far beyond any supposed savings. According to news reports, Arizona faces a budgetary shortfall this year of as much as $825 million. The entire package of Medicaid benefit changes, including the hepatitis C liver transplant exclusion, is expected to yield about $5 million in savings – or about 1/2 of one percent of the projected budgetary shortfall.

An estimated 5.3 million Americans have been infected with chronic viral hepatitis B or C – and with most unaware of their infection, millions are at risk of developing life-threatening complications, especially African Americans and Asian Americans. Without detection and prompt treatment, chronic viral hepatitis leads to liver cancer, cirrhosis, or liver failure.

NVHR is a coalition of more than 170 public, private, and voluntary organizations dedicated to reducing the incidence of infection, morbidity, and mortality from chronic viral hepatitis that afflicts more than 5 million Americans. http://www.nvhr.org/

SOURCE National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable



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