Boston Globe Criticizes Halt of Funding for Massachusetts Hepatitis C Program
Funding for Massachusetts' hepatitis C program has "inexcusably ... been stopped in its tracks by the Legislature's failure to agree on a budget," a Boston Globe editorial states (Boston Globe, 10/14). Massachusetts health officials announced on Oct. 4 that they are terminating a year-old program designed to educate doctors and those at risk for hepatitis C about the disease because of fiscal constraints caused by the ongoing state budget impasse. Massachusetts is currently operating on provisional budgets as the Legislature has failed to reach an agreement on a budget for fiscal year 2002, which began on July 1 (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 10/5). The Senate set aside $3.9 million for the hepatitis C program, but the House did not allocate any funding for the program, and policy issued by the office of Gov. Jane Swift (R) dictates that agencies operate on the lower figure. The state's hepatitis C program provided education and counseling about the disease, which has infected an estimated 110,000 Massachusetts residents. Counseling for hepatitis C is important, the editorial notes, because treatment for the disease can be "physically and psychologically debilitating." In addition, the program also helped raise awareness among the many state residents infected with hepatitis C who did not know they had the disease. The editorial concludes, "The suspension of the hepatitis C program is just one of many examples of worthwhile government initiatives thrown in disarray by legislative leaders' mulishness on the budget and the Swift policy" (Boston Globe, 10/14).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.