Many Hepatitis C-Positive Patients Are Uninsured

Even lower proportion of patients who are eligible for treatment are covered by insurance

FRIDAY, March 11 (HealthDay News) -- U.S. patients infected with hepatitis C virus (HCV) are more likely to be uninsured, and the rate of insurance coverage is even lower in those who are eligible for treatment, according to a study in the March issue of Hepatology.

Maria Stepanova, Ph.D., from the Inova Fairfax Hospital in Falls Church, Va., and colleagues examined the health insurance status and treatment candidacy of HCV-positive (HCV+) participants in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) from 2005 to 2008.

The investigators found that 1.16 percent of NHANES participants were defined as HCV+ with detectable HCV RNA. A significantly lower percentage (61.2 percent) of HCV+ individuals were insured compared to HCV-negative individuals (81.2 percent). HCV+ individuals were also less likely to have private insurance. There was no difference in terms of cover by Medicare/Medicaid or other government plans. HCV infection remained an independent predictor of not having insurance in multivariate analysis, even after adjusting the data for demographic disparity among the HCV+ cohort. In total, 66.7 percent of HCV+ patients were eligible for health treatment, 54.3 percent had insurance, and only 36.3 percent of HCV+ patients were eligible for treatment and had insurance coverage.

"A high proportion of HCV+ individuals in the United States are currently uninsured, and many have publicly funded health insurance," the authors write. "This issue of access to care for HCV patients is critical and must be considered by policy makers."

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