It is Thanksgiving, and my blog, normally done by now, sits untouched. I “should” be writing about gratitude, given the fact that I don’t have hepatitis C any longer, and the cure (Harvoni) was recently FDA-approved. Plus, I am sitting in my warm house, I have a full stomach, and I am healthy. Yes, I have so much to be grateful for…
…BUT, I am pissed off. I am sick and tired of hearing about the endless stream of denials for hepatitis C treatment. Insurance companies have taken over the process. They are deciding who is to be treated, and who is not. It is wrong. Here are some stories I’ve heard:
“I was treated for hepatitis C twice – once with peginterferon and ribavirin for 48 weeks, and once with telaprevir, peginterferon, and ribavirin for 48 weeks. I have stage 2 fibrosis and my health plan won’t cover hepatitis C treatment unless I am at stage 3 or more.”
“I have cirrhosis and was denied hepatitis C treatment because my doctor drug-tested me and found trace marijuana. I use cannabis because I am in debilitating pain, and the pain meds my doc prescribed turn me in to a zombie.”
A nurse told me that one of the insurance companies requires all patients to go through drug counseling. I am not sure which pisses me off more – the fact that they think we are all active drug users, or the fact that they are denying treatment to presumed drug users. Can you imagine if they said to a cancer patient, “We will treat you after you have had drug counseling.” It shouldn’t matter if someone is using drugs or not using drugs. Granted, counseling about transmission is critical, but that should occur regardless.
Then there is the fact that most of the state Medicaid programs are denying hepatitis C treatment to many. Connecticut only approves patients who have cirrhosis (stage 4). To me, this is like denying treatment for diabetes until someone has lost a limb or gone blind. A bit too late, isn’t it?
And what about women of childbearing age who want to treat their hepatitis C so they don’t risk passing it to their kids. How can insurance companies justify denying treatment to them?
It has to get better, doesn’t it? When I think about other injustices in the world, such as prejudice and homophobia, I think, this too will get better. How? We need to hold on to each other and stay strong. We need to speak up and speak out. And, despite my frustration and poor attitude, I need to be grateful that I have you to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with, holding hands, and fighting back.