Hepatitis C | KCUR

Hepatitis C

James Cavallini / Science Source

The Kansas Medicaid program sets too many barriers for patients to receive a potentially life-saving, if extremely costly, drug regimen, a lawsuit filed Thursday contends.

The class action filed in federal court argues that KanCare should cover the cost of medications that have proven effective in treating hepatitis C without subjecting patients to a lengthy list of conditions.

Alex Smith / KCUR 89.3

In a corner of her house in Sparta in southwest Missouri, Jymie Jimerson has set up a kind of shrine. It has Native American art representing her Cherokee heritage alongside Willie Nelson albums, books and photos in remembrance of her late husband. On one side is a copy of Willie’s mid-’70s LP, “Red Headed Stranger.”

“When Steve was young, he had red hair and a red beard, so he always really identified with Willie’s Red Headed Stranger,” Jimerson says. “I try to keep it up there as a reminder of better days.”

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A lawsuit alleging the Missouri Department of Corrections systematically denies medical treatment to prisoners with chronic hepatitis C has taken a big leap forward after a judge certified it as a class action.

A panel of legislators Friday reversed their recommendation of a lifetime ban on hepatitis C drugs for Medicaid patients who don’t comply with their treatment regimen.

Members of the Joint Committee on Home and Community Based Services and KanCare Oversight walked back on the recommendation they made in December  after hearing from Mike Randol, who heads the Kansas Department of Health and Environment’s Division of Health Care Finance.

File photo / Heartland Health Monitor

A legislative oversight committee has approved a controversial set of draft recommendations aimed at reducing the cost of drugs provided to Kansas Medicaid recipients.

The joint committee that oversees the state’s privatized Medicaid program known as KanCare this week tentatively approved recommendations that direct the Kansas Department of Health and Environment to develop policies aimed at slowing a steady increase in the $3 billion program’s pharmacy costs.

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A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that only half of Americans identified as having had Hepatitis C ever follow-up with additional screening and treatment. But that’s only part of the problem, according to Bruce Burkett of the Missouri Hepatitis C Alliance. Nearly three in four people who have the disease don’t even know it.

health.jocogov.org

While the Johnson County health department now says cases of whooping cough are on the decline in the region, health officials have noted a rise in another disease in area young adults: Hepatitis C.