One year after the state of New York approved a law that encouraged screening for hepatitis C virus (HCV), lab tests increased 51% and testing rates among Medicaid clients increased 52%, according to a report by New York State Department of Health officials. Additionally, access to care for people newly diagnosed with HCV increased approximately 40% in the state and 11% in New York City. Results were published in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) latest Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).
An estimated 2.7 to 3.9 million people in the United States have chronic hepatitis C, and up to 75% of them don’t know they’re infected, according to CDC.
In light of those statistics, New York enacted a law in 2014 requiring health care providers to offer HCV antibody screening to anyone born from 1945 to 1965 who receives services in primary care settings or as a hospital inpatient. Any individual who tests positive must be referred for follow-up care, which includes an HCV diagnostic test.
Officials targeted baby boomers (those born in 1945-1965) because approximately 75% of all HCV infections and 73% of HCV-associated deaths in the US occur in this generation.
Before and after the law was implemented, researchers surveyed laboratories, analyzed Medicaid records, and reviewed department of health data from the New York State and New York City. They found that from 2012 to 2014 the average monthly HCV testing rate rose to 12.8 per 1,000 persons, representing a 52% increase.
Interestingly, Medicaid clients born before and after the baby boomer generation—who were not targeted for screening—also had a 24% increase in monthly HCV testing.
Overall, 35% more people with newly-diagnosed HCV infection received access to care, including an increase of 11.2% in New York City and a 39.8% increase in the rest of the state.
“These findings highlight the potential for state laws to promote HCV testing and the utility of HCV surveillance and Medicaid claims data to monitor the quality of HCV testing and linkage to care for HCV-infected persons,” the researchers concluded.