The Ohio Department of Medicaid on Wednesday announced that it will begin paying for the treatment of patients with hepatitis C at an earlier stage of the disease (Source: “Ohio Department of Medicaid to treat those with Hepatitis C earlier,” Cleveland Plain Dealer, Oct. 31, 2018).
Starting Jan. 1, 2019, the department will cover care for individuals when they first develop the disease instead of waiting until it progresses further.
Cases of hepatitis C have seen a resurgence in Ohio in recent years due to the opioid epidemic. The number of cases in the state climbed 38 percent from 2014 to 2017, according to statistics from the Ohio Department of Health. In 2014, there were 15,806 new cases and by 2017, there were 21,882 new cases. Nationwide, more than 3 million people have chronic hepatitis C, according to the CDC.
“Individuals with opioid use disorder are the fastest growing population impacted by hepatitis C,” Tom Betti, press secretary for the Ohio Department of Medicaid, said in a prepared statement. “In an effort to mitigate the harm caused by the opioid epidemic, the Ohio Department of Medicaid is changing policy to begin earlier therapy for individuals with chronic hepatitis C. We have been studying this issue for some time and believe this action is the next appropriate step as part of Ohio’s response to the opioid crisis.”