Pennsylvania: HB 2003

By: Marcus Hopkins, HEAL Blogger

The HEAL Blog has consistently advocated for common sense legislation that promotes for better health outcomes, particularly (and specifically) as it relates to Hepatitis C screening. In the course of our advocacy, we have covered Florida legislation (CS/HB 0465) that would require specific persons to be offered HCV testing with every visit to a healthcare facility; HB 0465 is now in the Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee.

Rep. Matthew E. Baker, Pennsylvania General Assembly

Rep. Matthew E. Baker, Pennsylvania General Assembly

On March 20th, WESA, Pittsburgh, PA’s National Public Radio station, posted an article stating that Pennsylvania Representative Matt Baker (R-Bradford) has submitted a similar piece of legislation in Pennsylvania.

Bradford’s bill would require health care providers to offer HCV testing to Baby Boomers – those born between 1945-1965 – in an effort to stem the rise of HCV infection in the state. The legislation, HB 2003, provides for hepatitis C testing and treatment and for duties of the Department of Health.

“By increasing testing opportunities, this legislation will insure that more individuals living with hepatitis C can become aware of their infection status, get available treatment and take steps to prevent transmission,” Baker said.

The CDC estimates that nearly 75% of all HCV cases in the country reside in this age demographic. This is problematic – a large percentage of this population has not yet aged into Medicare eligibility, and this bill is designed to serve as a preventative measure that could save untold billions in the future.

As with my previous position concerning Florida’s legislative effort to address the burgeoning HCV problem, I must once again pose the question, “Why just this population?”

Though infection rates currently point to the vast majority of cases being present in the Baby Boomer generation, are other generations and demographic groups any less susceptible to the ravages of this virus? Would requiring physicians and other health care professionals to offer the same testing opportunities to every patient be any more time consuming or costly? I would wager not.

What’s good for the goose is good for the gander – if we focus our testing and prevention efforts on only one segment of a population, we do a disservice to others. While the PA legislation is a good step forward, it would behoove us, as advocates, to urge our legislators to expand the provision to include all age ranges.

Disclaimer: HEAL Blogs do not necessarily reflect the views of the Community Access National Network (CANN), but rather they provide a neutral platform whereby the author serves to promote open, honest discussion about Hepatitis-related issues and updates.

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