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National News

Hepatitis C Treatment May Cost New Jersey Millions

January 14, 2003

Ten weeks after pledging to pay for treating the hepatitis C epidemic in its prisons, New Jersey has learned how much it may cost -- $4.5 million to $8 million this year, by conservative estimates. The prison medical provider, Correctional Medical Services of St. Louis, projected the cost.

The CMS documents, obtained by the Inquirer through the state's Open Public Records Act, said one-fourth of New Jersey's 26,000 inmates would probably test positive for hepatitis C if the prison system decided to screen everyone for the virus.

In July, the Inquirer reported that New Jersey prisons were not treating inmates with the disease, which can lead to liver failure. CMS also did not tell hundreds of inmates that they had tested positive for hepatitis C, including 21 who had been released.

The hepatitis C epidemic has hit prisons across the country, but only a handful of states pay for extensive screening and treatment. In July, New Jersey was treating only one inmate, although 1,170 already had tested positive for the virus. The state this year is paying CMS nearly $100 million for prison medical care. That does not include the cost of hepatitis C treatment, which the state started covering Nov. 1.

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CMS told the Corrections Department that if just 25 percent of all New Jersey inmates were tested, it would cost the state $4.5 million a year for treatment and testing in accordance with Federal Bureau of Prison guidelines, a standard New Jersey says it will meet. The estimate also assumes that one in eight inmates who test positive will qualify for treatment under medical guidelines. But if 75 percent of the inmates were tested, the annual cost for testing and treatment would be $8.4 million, a CMS document said. New Jersey screens only inmates who ask to be tested.

As of Dec. 4, new documents show, 1,407 inmates were known to be infected -- a 20 percent increase in five months. Corrections Commissioner Devon Brown said he expects the numbers to climb as inmates and medical staff learn more about the disease and more prisoners ask to be tested.

Back to other CDC news for January 14, 2003

Previous Updates

Adapted from:
Philadelphia Inquirer
01.12.03; Mark Fazlollah; Jennifer Lin



  
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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
 

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