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LETTERS Hepatitis crisis
2017-11-15

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The AIDS Foundation of Chicago ( AFC ) and Legal Council for Health Justice ( LCHJ ) are appalled to learn the state of Illinois was given a "D-" grade in the National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable and the Center for Health Law Policy Innovation of Harvard Law School's interactive report grading the nation's Medicaid programs on their access to treatments for hepatitis C ( HCV ). Illinois is among the 52 percent of states that received a "D" or "F" in the report.

As the deadliest infectious disease in the United States, HCV affects an estimated 3.5 million people. Approximately 68,400 of those affected live in Illinois and are severely restricted by Medicaid Fee-For-Service ( FFS ) and the four Managed Care Organizations ( MCOs ) that require severe liver damage before giving access to treatment. Additionally, FFS, three MCOs and Medicaid Primary Care Case Management ( PCCM ) require six months of sobriety of active substance users with HCV before giving access to medication.

"Illinoisans with hepatitis C have to wait until they are incredibly sick with major liver scarring before being eligible for treatment under Medicaid at this time," said John Peller, AFC president/CEO. "With this disease affecting an estimated one in every 200 Illinois residents, it is imperative that access to medication be manageable."

Because 25 percent of people living with HIV in the United States also are infected with HCV, AFC is a strong advocate for the highest quality, most affordable and best access to HCV treatment possible. Earlier this fall, LCHJ and AFC wrote letters to the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America urging the organizations to work together to address the HCV epidemic.

"By Illinois and the country lifting liver damage, sobriety and prescriber restrictions, curing HCV, even among the HIV community, is possible," said LCHJ Executive Director Tom Yates. "It's just a matter of organizations working together to make change happen."

AIDS Foundation of Chicago


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