People from the Baby Boom generation covered under Medicare can now get one-time screening for hepatitis C, according to a memo from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has recommended testing for HCV for appropriate individuals born between 1945 and 1965. This age group has nearly a five times higher prevalence of the HCV virus than other adults. This is partly because blood supplies were not screened for HCV until some time after the virus was discovered around 1990.
Chronic infection with HCV affects approximately 3 million people nationwide and almost 150 million people around the world. Hepatitis virus can remain in a person’s body for decades without symptoms and lead to cirrhosis and liver cancer if untreated. Chronic infection with HC is the most common cause of liver transplants in the United States.
A statement from CMS states that there is adequate evidence to conclude that screening for HCV “is reasonable and necessary for the prevention or early detection of an illness or disability and is appropriate for individuals entitled to benefits under Part A or enrolled under Part B.” Medicare requires that testing for HCV be performed by an eligible, Medicare primary care provider at an FDA approved laboratory in compliance with Clinical Laboratory Improvement Act (CLIA) regulations.
Medicare coverage will also include screening for other adults considered to be at high risk for HCV infection. These include those with a current or past history of injection drug use or have a history of receiving a blood transfusion before 1992.