Sign On | Letter Urging HHS Secretary Sebelius to Add Hepatitis C Screening to Medicare

Below is a sign-on letter urging HHS Secretary Sebelius to initiate a Medicare national coverage determination process for adding hepatitis C screening to Medicare. While the USPSTF “B” grade ensures that HCV testing will not have cost-sharing for Medicare beneficiaries, the coverage determination process is necessary for adding any service. This process can take from 6 to 9 months, followed by public comment period, so it is vital that the process begin quickly. The letter also reiterates our request that hepatitis C screening be added to the Welcome to Medicare exam/annual wellness visits and urges CMS to educate providers and beneficiaries about the new recommendations.

Because of the urgency of this issue, NVHR will send this letter on Monday, August 5th. The deadline for signing this letter is 5 pm Eastern, Friday, August 2nd. Organizations and corporations are encouraged to sign.

To sign the letter below, email rclary@nvhr.org with the name of organization/corporation and city/state. Deadline: Friday, August 2nd, 5 pm Eastern


 

The Honorable Kathleen Sebelius
Secretary
Department of Health & Human Services
200 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20201

 

Dear Secretary Sebelius:

The undersigned organizations strongly urge you to initiate a national coverage determination process for adding hepatitis C screening to Medicare for at risk populations and those born between 1945 and 1965. We also urge you to ensure that Medicare incorporates hepatitis C screening into the Welcome to Medicare exam and the Medicare annual wellness visit.

On June 24, 2013, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force issued final hepatitis C screening recommendations. The USPSTF now recommends, with a “B” grade, testing those at risk for hepatitis C and a one-time test for everyone born between 1945 and 1965 (“Baby Boomers”). These recommendations are now aligned with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s hepatitis C testing guidelines. It is vital that Medicare play a role in implementing these lifesaving recommendations given the age of its current and incoming beneficiaries and the looming financial impact of hepatitis C on the program. It is estimated that, without any significant changes in current testing practices, the cost of hepatitis C care and treatment to the Medicare program will increase five fold over the next 20 years, from $5 billion to $30 billion per year.

Baby Boomers represent 75% of the more than 4 million cases of hepatitis C in this country. However, the overwhelming majority do not know they are infected. The USPSTF and the CDC accurately recognized that the best way to identify these individuals, so that they can benefit from care and treatment before developing late stage liver disease, liver cancer, and/or need a liver transplant, is to ensure everyone in the birth cohort have an opportunity to be tested. According to the CDC, this one-time test would result in identifying more than 800,000 cases and avoiding as many as 121,000 deaths.

We urge you to act immediately to initiate a national coverage determination process so that this lifesaving screening can be added to Medicare, without cost-sharing, as soon as possible. The “Welcome to Medicare” exam and annual wellness visits are excellent venues for many Medicare beneficiaries to be screened, and we ask that you work with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to ensure that hepatitis C screening is made available in these venues once the coverage determination process has ended. We also recommend that CMS educate Medicare providers and beneficiaries about the updated USPSTF recommendations.

Incorporating hepatitis C screening into Medicare would fulfill a key action in U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Action Plan for the Prevention, Care, and Treatment of Viral Hepatitis. Your leadership is urgently needed to make sure the goals of your viral hepatitis action plan are realized. Please do everything in your power to make sure that Medicare is leading the way in implementing the USPSTF hepatitis C screening guidelines.

Sincerely,

<Insert Information, Organization, and State>

NVHR

P.O. Box 1662
Rohnert Park, CA 94928
United States

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