Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) chairs the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs. At a hearing Wednesday, Dec. 3, Sanders wanted to know why new hepatitis C drugs cost so much and how the VA was going to pay for them.
In our ongoing series about hepatitis C, we look now at one of the hardest hit populations: veterans. Hep C is three times more prevalent among vets than in the general population. The Veterans Health Administration has the country’s largest hepatitis C screening and treatment program in the country. But that program is struggling to pay for new treatments – and the rising number of veterans who need them.
An audit released by the VA finds patients at the Providence VA Medical Center have some of the longest average waits in the nation to receive primary care. The Providence VA said that’s due to staff who retired and an increase in patients at its clinic in Hyannis, MA.
New patients receiving their first primary care appointments waited an average of about 74 days, according to the VA audit. Only seven other facilities across the country had longer waits.
Sen. Jack Reed is calling on Congress to address the systemic challenges plaguing the VA healthcare system.
Reed made the statement just hours after Veterans Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned amid a growing cover up of long wait times for healthcare. Reed said the next secretary needs to start the job with a top to bottom review of what’s causing the backlog.
A few health care organizations are trying to grapple right now with the great news that, on the one hand, new hepatitis C treatments are more effective and more tolerable for patients; on the other, they're so expensive they can't figure out how to treat everyone who's infected. How expensive? $1000 a pill, one pill a day. One pill a day that doesn't make you sick is music to the ears of people who've been on the older treatments.