Curing Seniors’ Hepatitis C Early Could Cut Medicare Costs, Save Lives

by Amanda Conschafter, blog editor

Curing hepatitis C before senior citizens age into Medicare could save tens of thousands of lives. And as a new study from Milliman reports, it could also save the Medicare system $3.9 billion over 10 years.

The Milliman study considers baby boomers, those born between 1945 and 1965, who are infected with hepatitis C and progressing toward Medicare eligibility. Projections correspond to three different scenarios:

  • A baseline where no seniors receive a cure for hepatitis C
  • A first scenario where only seniors whose hepatitis C has advanced to cirrhosis of the liver receive treatment under commercial insurance
  • A second scenario where curative treatment extends broadly to all diagnosed senior citizens, regardless of the presence or absence of cirrhosis, under commercial insurance.

[Related: Improving Patient Access to Hepatitis C Cures]

Both scenarios one and two demonstrated an increase in lives saved by hepatitis C cures and a decrease in Medicare costs. Scenario two, applying broad curative treatment, showed higher increases for both measures. Improved survivorship does raise costs for Medicare by increasing the number of patients covered by the program. Even adjusting for these costs, however, broad treatment still reduced overall Medicare expenditures by $3.9 billion.

Granted, the projected savings do not reflect the cost of hepatitis C cures. Instead, the study shows Medicare-specific cost-savings that result from baby boomers’ receiving treatment under their commercial insurance prior to obtaining Medicare coverage. The study’s authors note that hepatitis C cures can be expensive, though prices fluctuate and “net prices seem likely to decline as more curative drugs enter the market.”

[Related: Curing Hepatitis C: A High-cost, High-value Proposition

Aging seniors bear the brunt of hepatitis C, often seen as a “baby boomer epidemic.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that 75 percent of hepatitis C cases in the United States occur in this age group.


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