New Illinois Policy Expands Access to Hep C Treatment

The state of Illinois has backed off a 2-year-old policy that allowed only its sickest residents with hepatitis C who rely on the traditional Medicaid program to get disease-curing drugs.

The policy change, announced Friday evening, means Illinois residents on Medicaid with stage 3 liver scarring — not just the sickest patients with stage 4 liver scarring — will be able to access the drugs. If left untreated, hepatitis C can lead to liver failure, cancer and even death.

At least 12,000 Illinoisans covered by Medicaid had been diagnosed with hepatitis C as of last year, according to the state.

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State Rep. Michael McAuliffe, R-Chicago, was elated to hear of the new policy Friday. McAuliffe is chairman of the state's task force on hepatitis C, which he created after losing his father-in-law, brother-in-law and uncle to complications of hepatitis C. The task force had been pushing for changes to the policy.

"I think it's going to save a lot of lives," McAuliffe said.

Read more on the policy change at the Chicago Tribune.