Hepatitis C cure eludes patients as states struggle with costs

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Hepatitis C cure eludes patients as states struggle with costs

The high price tag of hepatitis C medications can serve as a roadblock for some patients.

Wanda Bamberg Tia is clearly in good shape.

The 62-year-old dance instructor and fitness coach is obsessive about her health, eating carefully, drinking in moderation and staying away from drugs or smoking. Her kitchen cabinets are loaded with vitamin supplements, health drinks and herbal remedies.

So she was stunned when in early 2017 she was diagnosed with hepatitis C — and probably had been infected for decades.

“I had been feeling a little tired and stressed, but that was not what I expected,” Tia said.

And she was even more distressed to learn that, while there are more than a half-dozen drugs that cure hepatitis, getting health insurance to pay for them can be a challenge.

Hepatitis treatment pits patients against insurance companies and lawmakers against drugmakers. States, which cover a huge number of hepatitis sufferers like Tia, are stuck with some of the biggest bills.

“There are probably a million people who have hepatitis C in the Medicaid world,” said Matt Salo, director of the National Association of Medicaid Directors. “When it costs $64,000 to cure hepatitis C, that’s a great deal. Multiply that by a million people? That’s what made people freak out.”

Tia, covered by Washington, D.C.’s relatively generous Medicaid program, is in the middle of that big budget freak-out. Fighting for her cure has been a months-long battle.

Read on: Hepatitis C cure eludes patients as states struggle with costs

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