FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE July 27, 2018
Contact: Mika De Roo, 347-585-6051, email@example.com
Governor Announces Next Steps on Historic NY Hep C Elimination Plan, Commits to Appoint State Hepatitis C Elimination Task Force
New York, NY—Governor Andrew Cuomo made good on his previous commitment to eliminating hepatitis C virus infection (HCV) statewide by announcing his intention to appoint a state Hepatitis C Elimination Task Force. As suggested earlier this spring by the NYS Hepatitis C Elimination Campaign and other stakeholders that hosted the nation’s first statewide hepatitis C elimination summit in February 2017, the Hepatitis C Elimination Task Force will use the Governor’s successful 2014 End the Epidemic Task Force for HIV/AIDS as a foundational model. The Task Force will build on the work of the medical experts and community leaders who attended the 2017 summit. Specifically, the Task Force can use the consensus document presented at the 2017 summit—34 draft recommendations from five working groups (prevention; testing and linkage to care; care and treatment access; surveillance, data and metrics; and social determinants)—as the basis for a blueprint of next steps needed to end New York’s HCV epidemic.
The Governor’s announcement also included an initial $5 million in new funding for hepatitis C services, commitments to ramp up immediate access to treatment, and integration of HCV treatment with overdose prevention strategies and treatment for substance use, including the following regulatory and payer changes:
• extending primary care licenses to harm reduction settings for people who use drugs to enable medical treatment (HCV direct acting antiviral, or HCV DAA) and treatment monitoring at locations where people who use drugs already receive services;
• authorizing Medicaid reimbursement for telemedicine to expand patient access to HCV DAA treatment and build provider capacity upstate;
• removing termination dates from prior authorizations of HCV DAA treatment and eliminating medically unnecessary HCV viral load testing for patients in care, both changes that will help prevent disruptions in treatment;
• revising licensure and reimbursement regulations to enable OASAS- and OMH-licensed treatment providers to provide on-site HCV testing and treatment; and
• creating a second tier of syringe exchange providers, allowing social-service and other community-based institutions that serve people who inject drugs, such as churches, LGBT centers, and local government agencies, to distribute and collect syringes.
“The Governor's commitment to the elimination of hepatitis C is amazing and groundbreaking here in the United States, very much in line with his commitment in 2014 to end AIDS as an epidemic in New York State,” said Housing Works CEO & President Charles King. “In both cases, New York is the first state to take up the challenge. When we developed the Blueprint to end HIV as an epidemic in New York State, we knew we were paving the way for elimination of hepatitis C. What we lacked were an affordable way to pay for the cure and a trained and willing system of treatment and care. But prices have dropped significantly and, with the proposed regulatory changes that will allow us to treat people where they are at, we can now do this. We look forward to working with the Governor and his staff to ensure the implementation of a plan that will end hep C just as we have been doing with HIV.”
An alarming 14,745 new HCV infections were reported in New York in 2016—more than five times the number of new HIV diagnoses statewide for the same year. More than 280,000 New Yorkers have ever been infected with HCV, and 50% are unaware of their status. Despite the existence of an effective, easy-to-take cure for HCV infection for over seven years now, and a more recent push to lower the cost of treatment to expand access, roughly 1,000 New Yorkers die every year from hepatitis C-related causes.