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Regardless of Politics, Supreme Court Ruling Benefits Hepatitis C

Nicole Cutler L.Ac. July 10, 2012

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Representing progress for the Hepatitis C community, healthcare reform seems to be gaining momentum.

Democrats and Republicans appear to be divided on President Barack Obama’s healthcare law, the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Despite the apparent divide, the future of Hepatitis C looks brighter in light of the late June 2012 Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the ACA.

In a 5-4 ruling based on the power of Congress to impose taxes, the Supreme Court preserved the law’s mandate requiring Americans to obtain health insurance by 2014 or pay a tax. The ACA is expected to extend medical coverage to more than 30 million U.S. citizens who currently lack health insurance. Besides requiring Americans to have health coverage, the Supreme Court ruling helps ensure other elements of the ACA, such as:

  • Allowing young adults to stay on their parents’ insurance until age 26
  • Prohibiting insurers from denying benefits to those with preexisting conditions

There is a lot more red tape to wade through before Obama’s healthcare reform becomes reality. However, the highest court’s ruling endorses the concept that health insurers may not deny coverage due to a preexisting condition. This part of the ACA represents a major victory in the battle against Hepatitis C.

Statistics estimate that:

  • 1 in 33 baby boomers have Hepatitis C
  • approximately 5 million Americans have Hepatitis C
  • about three-quarters of those infected with Hepatitis C don’t yet know it

As such, a government proposal that all baby boomers get tested for the infectious liver virus is drawing high praise for its potential health benefits. With widespread testing comes greater awareness of who has Hepatitis C – and more with this illness can finally get treatment for it. This is especially poignant because Hepatitis C is easier to address before it progresses to the more advanced stages of liver disease. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that passage of this proposal could save more than 120,000 lives. In addition, diagnosing Hepatitis C enables those infected to take better precautions that will help prevent its spread.

A drawback of requiring all baby boomers get tested for Hepatitis C is the unintended consequence of detecting a “preexisting condition” that could prevent someone from being insurable. Experts in health insurance warn that boomers who test positive for Hepatitis C before being approved may endanger their chances for coverage. According to CDC officials, about a third of those diagnosed with Hepatitis C currently do not have health insurance. Susan M. Pisano, vice president of communications for America’s Health Insurance Plans, the national trade association representing the industry, concurs that Hepatitis C is one of several chronic, life-threatening diseases that can exclude people from being insured.

Under the Obama Administration’s health reform law, insurers would not be able to reject adults with Hepatitis C or another preexisting condition starting in 2014. Advocates of the ACA and those with the goal of reducing the burden Hepatitis C places on our society pray that insurers will no longer be able to deny coverage based on a Hepatitis C diagnosis.

Potentially just two years away, continued support of Obama’s healthcare reform will transform the burden of Hepatitis C infection. Without fear of being rejected by a health insurer, it will be easier to test for and diagnose Hepatitis C, enabling those affected to seek help before it is too late. With greater availability to healthcare, infected individuals can prevent infecting others – regardless of their political ties. The recent Supreme Court decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act is not the final chapter in health insurance eligibility, but it does bring us one step closer to victory over Hepatitis C – for all Americans, despite their political affiliation.

References:

http://vitals.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/06/19/12285739-boomers-hep-c-tests-may-torpedo-insurance-chances-experts-say?lite, Boomers’ Hep C Tests May Torpedo Insurance Chances, Experts Say, JoNel Aleccia, Retrieved July 8, 2012, msnbc.com, 2012.

http://www.healthcare.gov/law/features/choices/pre-existing-condition-insurance-plan/index.html, Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP), Retrieved July 8, 2012, US Department of Health and Human Services, 2012.

http://www.hepmag.com/articles/affordable_care_act_obamacare_aca_2501_22626.shtml, Supreme Court Upholds Health Care Act, Individual Mandate, Retrieved July 8, 2012, Smart & Strong, 2012.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/06/28/us-usa-healthcare-court-idUSBRE85R06420120628?feedType=RSS&feedName=healthNews&rpc=69, Top court upholds healthcare law in Obama triumph, James Vicini, et al, Retrieved July 8, 2012, Thomson Reuters, 2012.

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