The state removed prior authorization requirements for two preferred hepatitis C medications, increasing access to hepatitis C treatments for more Rhode Islanders.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 18, 2021
Josh Berkowitz: (703) 939-7056
Kyra Sanborn: (617) 496-1507
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable (NVHR) and the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation of Harvard Law School (CHLPI) today applauded Rhode Island Medicaid for removing prior authorizations for two preferred antiviral treatments for all persons living with hepatitis C, effective as of August 1, 2021. Lifting these restrictions will increase access to the hepatitis C cure for the nearly 23,000 Rhode Island residents that are living with hepatitis C.
“Prior authorizations are a modifiable barrier to hepatitis C elimination that limit treatment access to marginalized communities. Rhode Island’s decision to remove these requirements for two preferred antiviral treatments will ultimately provide greater access to care for thousands of Rhode Island residents, and brings us closer to our goal of eliminating hepatitis C across the country,” said Adrienne Simmons, Director of Programs at NVHR. “Rhode Island joins a growing number of states who have recently taken the important step to remove prior authorizations for hepatitis C treatment, and we hope other states will continue to follow their lead.”
Cases of Hepatitis C, a viral infection that causes liver inflammation and is one of the leading causes of liver disease, have been increasing since 2010 due to the ongoing opioid crisis. Today’s treatment for hepatitis C can cure most people in 8 to 12 weeks. Yet barriers to this treatment persist across the country.
“I applaud Rhode Island Medicaid for removing prior authorization processes for two hepatitis C regimens. It was a collective effort that got us to this point, and a decision made in response to ongoing work from healthcare workers, people with lived experience, and advocacy coming together,” said Lynn E. Taylor, MD, FACP, FAASLD, Director of HIV and Viral Hepatitis Services at CODAC Behavioral Health. “While this is a game-changing step forward towards hepatitis C elimination, we must continue to break down remaining barriers and discriminatory practices. Prior authorizations for direct-acting antivirals needed for patients with contraindications to the two Medicaid-preferred treatments remain in place, as do prior authorizations and high copay costs for individuals with commercial insurance.” Taylor’s organization, a non-profit based in Cranston, RI, provides outpatient treatment for Opioid Use Disorder across seven community-based locations and programming at the Rhode Island Department of Corrections.
“It is encouraging to see Rhode Island follow the lead of numerous other states to remove prior authorization requirements for hepatitis C treatments patients,” said Robert Greenwald, Clinical Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and the Faculty Director of CHLPI. “We encourage all payors and providers to immediately implement the new policies to help improve public health outcomes, especially amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.”
Prior authorization is a process whereby health care providers must get advance approval before a payor will decide whether to cover a medication or service. The latest removal of prior authorizations for two preferred hepatitis C treatments has consequently increased Rhode Island’s Hepatitis C: State of Medicaid Access score to A+. For more information about hepatitis C treatment access barriers, please visit www.stateofhepc.org.
About the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation of Harvard Law School (CHLPI)
The Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation of Harvard Law School (CHLPI) advocates for legal, regulatory, and policy reforms to improve the health of underserved populations, with a focus on the needs of low-income people living with chronic illnesses and disabilities. CHLPI works to expand access to high-quality health care; to reduce health disparities; and to promote more equitable and effective health care systems. CHLPI is a clinical teaching program of Harvard Law School and mentors students to become skilled, innovative, and thoughtful practitioners as well as leaders in health and public health law and policy. For more information, visit www.chlpi.org.
About the National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable (NVHR)
The National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable, an initiative of HEP, is a national coalition fighting for an equitable world free of viral hepatitis. NVHR seeks to eliminate viral hepatitis in the United States and improve the lives of those affected through advocacy, education, and support to national, state and local partners. For more information, visit www.nvhr.org.