Alaska Medicaid decision puts veterans at risk

Letter to the editor

Posted: Sunday, February 22, 2004

A recent decision by Alaska Medicaid to restrict access to important medications used to treat Hepatitis C (HCV) has placed many veterans at risk. Their decision to reduce a physician's treatment options not only hurts veterans who are Medicaid patients, but it also sends a clear message that Alaska is not serious about treating HCV veterans who suffer from Hepatitis C at a rate that is disproportionately higher than the general population. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), HCV infects one out of every 10 veterans. It is four times more prevalent then HIV and is the leading cause of liver transplants. Hepatitis C can lead to liver failure, cancer and death.

Known as the "silent killer," Hepatitis C is a blood-borne virus that was first identified in 1990. The treatment options for combating this virus are already limited. Only recently have there been breakthrough medications that can successfully treat HCV. With a number of veterans on Alaska state assistance, this decision by Medicaid is a serious blow to those individuals that served their country only to come home to fight a battle with Hepatitis C. Alaska Medicaid needs to step up and recognize the serious impact their decision could have on this population and correct this mistake by rescinding their recent decision.

Skip Dreps

Government relations director

Northwest Chapter of the Paralyzed Veterans of America

Burien, Wash.

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