Some states are increasing access to hepatitis C cures.
Patrick Garcia wasn’t completely surprised when he learned recently he had hepatitis C. Until a few years ago, he had experimented with numerous drugs, injecting heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine — you name it.
“I haven’t lived exactly a perfect life,” said Garcia, 43, whose mouth, hand and back were injured in a motorcycle wreck last year.
Medi-Cal, California’s public health program for the poor, paid for his post-accident care and the bloodwork that led to his hepatitis C diagnosis. But it wouldn’t pay for the pricey new medications that cure the disease.
“I got denied twice,” said the Sacramento-area resident, who was told he didn’t meet the criteria for treatment. “It’s frustrating, to say the least.”
For at least four years, Medi-Cal has limited coverage of medications such as Harvoni and Sovaldi. Under current guidelines, only people with liver scarring or HIV, women of childbearing age, active injection-drug users, and patients who fall into other high-risk categories can get these drugs.
Still, many Medi-Cal patients who need the drugs have been able to get them.
Starting next month, Medi-Cal is expected to loosen its restrictions and begin providing the drugs to hepatitis C patients, like Garcia, who currently don’t have access.
Gov. Jerry Brown and state lawmakers have set aside $70 million in next year’s budget — which starts July 1 — so that almost all Medi-Cal recipients with hepatitis C will become eligible for the medications, as long as they are at least 13 and have more than one year to live.
The agency expects to treat 2,090 Medi-Cal patients with that extra money in the next fiscal year. In 2017, about 7,800 Medi-Cal recipients received the drugs under the current guidelines.
Brown, who proposed this funding, is likely to approve it by the end of the month.
|Read on: California Poised To Expand Access To Hepatitis C Drugs | California Healthline|