Surviving Hepatitis C in AZ Jails, State Prisons, and Federal Detention Centers.

Surviving Hepatitis C in AZ Jails, State Prisons, and Federal Detention Centers.
The "Hard Time" blogspot is a volunteer-run site for the political organization of people with Hepatitis C behind and beyond prison walls, their loved ones, and whomever cares to join us. We are neither legal nor medical professionals. Some of us may organize for support, but this site is primarily dedicated to education and activism; we are fighting for prevention, detection, treatment, and a cure for Hepatitis C, particularly down in the trenches where most people are dying - in prison or on the street... Join us.


Monday, October 11, 2010

"Capitol Murder": When the state steals hope from the dying.

It's my understanding that last spring Governor Brewer's and the legislature's bean counters calculated that if they deny AHCCCS coverage for liver transplants, then 17 people on the waiting list will die within the year, saving the state all of about 2.5 million dollars. They probably made that decision with a list of the patients' names on their table. The rest of those waiting for livers will soon follow. Virtually all patients waiting for liver transplants are HCV survivors.

It's sad to say that our government chose to go that route instead of saving the same amount of money by releasing 500 non-violent offenders 6 months early. No one would have to die. Thank legislators Russ Pearce and John Kavanaugh, and Chuck Ryan at the Department of Corrections, for scaring everyone into thinking that ANY early prison releases would jeopardize public safety. In the meantime, sick and vulnerable people are dying in prison at astounding rates this year.

I guess this way, though, the independently wealthy and well-insured will have more livers to choose from once the poor are out of the picture. Frankly, that just makes me want to destroy my organ donor card. 

This policy should be criminal; it sure seems discriminatory and a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. As long as this legislature is making the laws, though, all but the elite are bound to be screwed - they cut everything from our school budgets to our health care, while protecting their own assets and preserving their own privileged way of life. 

We need to get the people who supported this out of office next month, or spend the next two years fighting and even harder battle with them. Failing that, we may need to just figure out a way to specify that our own organs are donated only to the poor, when the time comes. Then the state can either save our people from an unnecessarily horrible death, or face the wrath of the entire transplant community for letting good organs rot.

------------------From the National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable--------------

A controversial new policy by the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System depriving hepatitis C patients coverage for liver transplants is effectively a death sentence that, left unchecked, could have far-reaching consequences for millions of Americans afflicted with chronic viral hepatitis, the National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable (NVHR) said today.   The new coverage exclusion governing liver transplants took effect Friday as part of broader Medicaid coverage changes made by the state of Arizona in response to budgetary pressures.  

"The Arizona Medicaid program's decision to deprive hepatitis C patients coverage for liver transplants is inhumane and will have devastating consequences for Arizona's Medicaid beneficiaries," said Ms. Lorren Sandt, NVHR Chair and Executive Director of Caring Ambassadors Program, based in Portland, Oregon .  "NVHR recognizes that both public and private health care programs are struggling with the burden of rising costs and a challenging economic environment.  However, the cruel costs associated with Arizona's Medicaid coverage changes do not appear to be based on sound science and far exceed any supposed benefit."

"The standard of care for centers and practitioners is to offer liver transplants to patients with hepatitis C.  All insurance providers – including state Medicaid programs – need to provide coverage for what is the standard of care. With new curative therapies on the horizon, it is imperative not to discriminate against patients with hepatitis C when selecting patients for a liver transplant," said Robert G. Gish, M.D., Co-Director Center for Hepatobiliary Disease and Abdominal Transplantation (CHAT), University of California, San Diego School of Medicine.  
Arizona Medicaid's transplant coverage exclusion is the first of its kind in the nation for hepatitis C patients.  NVHR is deeply troubled that the new Medicaid coverage exclusion inflicts catastrophic consequences that go far beyond any supposed savings.   According to news reports, Arizona faces a budgetary shortfall this year of as much as $825 million.  The entire package of Medicaid benefit changes, including the hepatitis C liver transplant exclusion, is expected to yield about $5 million in savings – or about 1/2 of one percent of the projected budgetary shortfall.

An estimated 5.3 million Americans have been infected with chronic viral hepatitis B or C – and with most unaware of their infection, millions are at risk of developing life-threatening complications, especially African Americans and Asian Americans. Without detection and prompt treatment, chronic viral hepatitis leads to liver cancer, cirrhosis, or liver failure.  

NVHR is a coalition of more than 170 public, private, and voluntary organizations dedicated to reducing the incidence of infection, morbidity, and mortality from chronic viral hepatitis that afflicts more than 5 million Americans.
SOURCE National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable

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