Nearly 2.4 million Americans are living with the Hepatitis C Virus, it being the country’s deadliest infectious disease. Despite this reality, many state Medicaid programs have several discriminatory restrictions in place that keep Americans from accessing Hepatitis C treatment and preventing the country from ending the epidemic.
The National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable (NVHR), a national coalition working to eliminate viral hepatitis, and the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation of Harvard Law School (CHLPI), have recently acclaimed Puerto Rico for removing discriminatory restrictions on access to hepatitis C treatment that were limiting more than one million Puerto Ricans who are covered by the Medicaid program from accessing life-saving medications.
As part of NVHR and CHLPI’s “Hepatitis C: State of Medicaid Access Report,” Puerto Rico had previously received a “D” rating due to imposing “strict sobriety and narrow specialist prescribing requirements.” The report grades each state as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, based on its overall “state of access.”
In collaborative efforts made by ASES (Puerto Rico’s Health Insurance Administration), Abbvie (a research-driven biopharmaceutical company), and Abarca Health, these discriminatory barriers have been significantly reduced, increasing Puerto Rico’s rating to a “B” and formally including hepatitis C treatment in its managed care program that covers all beneficiaries. Increasing access to such treatment will help people of the island eliminate hep C and improve treatment options.
“At least 2.3% of Puerto Ricans 21-64 years old are estimated to be living with hepatitis C, putting them at risk of developing liver cancer or passing the infection on to others,” said NVHR Director Lauren Canary. “Puerto Rico has taken the necessary steps to move towards eliminating hepatitis C, which is more important than ever as those who are living with chronic liver disease are at greater risk of COVID-19 complications.”
As part of Abarca’s unstoppable commitment to delivering better care on the island, especially to underserved populations, this step forward is a great milestone for Puerto Rico’s healthcare system.
Abarca is proud to be able to aid in this great achievement, and are committed to the work ahead. The Abarca team will continue to work with ASES and call attention to viral hepatitis in their communities and support access to the treatment programs needed.
Read Puerto Rico’s full “Hepatitis C: State of Medicaid Access Report Card” here.