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Curing Hepatitis C Could Save the Nation $7 Billion

Paying for increased hepatitis C testing and treatment programs could generate more long-term savings for the health care system than they cost, a new Congressional Budget Office analysis reports. The government office estimated $7 billion in savings over 10 years. 

Life-Saving Cure Costs Less than Lifelong Treatment, Spares Suffering 

Treating patients with late-stage hepatitis C is more expensive than curing it. A full course of the direct acting antiviral medication costing up to $17,000 per patient, according to the report, would be more than offset by savings on hospitalizations and surgeries, such as liver transplantation and other costly treatments, later. 

Even though treatment with a 95% cure rate in just 8-12 weeks is available, more than 15,000 Americans die each year of hepatitis C.  

In contrast, patients who successfully complete the full course of treatment are not only spared the painful, expensive complications of progressed disease, but they can no longer spread it to others, limiting future infections.  

Increased Outreach is Part of the Subscription, Solution 

While national efforts to eliminate the disease lag behind those of comparable countries, several states have initiated their own subscription-style models to increase access to testing and treatment for Medicaid and incarcerated populations specifically. These high-risk groups were the focus of the CBO’s analysis.  

The government report noted that “outreach would be necessary to substantially increase testing and treatment rates.” More than one-third of the 2.4 million people living with hepatitis C in the U.S. are unaware of their infection.  

Fully Funding the National Elimination Plan 

Increased screening is also a pillar of the National Hepatitis C Elimination Program, which aims to decrease the number of American lives claimed each year by the disease. Fully funding and implementing the national program has the potential to save not just money, but also thousands of lives each year.  

Advocates have been touting the value of the national plan for years. Now, with the Congressional Budget Office report in hand, they have more proof that prioritizing hepatitis C treatment – now, not later – is a smart investment.

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